Thursday, December 7, 2023

Chook Symphony strikes a chord with organic birds

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Chicken farmers, NZSO put spotlight on animal welfare with musical interlude.
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The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is ruffling some feathers in Hawke’s Bay.

And the country’s only organic free-range chicken producer, Bostock Brothers, couldn’t be happier about it.

Bostock Brothers has put the spotlight on animal welfare via a quirky partnership with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra  (NZSO), whose musicians have produced an original composition purely for the birds.

It is aimed at enriching the lives of the organic chickens. The piece has been attuned specifically to the chooks’ musical tastes and is the next step in championing the brothers’ ethical farming values, ensuring their birds live happier lives.

Created by composer and sound designer Hamish Oliver, the piece taps into global studies that validate chickens’ enjoyment of classical and baroque music, as well as instrumental sounds specifically tested on the Bostock Brothers’ chickens.

“The Bostock Brothers chickens were responsive to the viola, oboe, and bassoon, so I combined a string quartet with the squawkiest instruments of the woodwind family (oboe and bassoon) and added some inspiration from the chicken sound-world. The baroque-flavoured result will no doubt soothe the birds and appeal to their senses,” Oliver laughed. 

“It’s not everyday that composing opportunities for a feathered audience come up and this has been a new kind of musical challenge for me, a definite career highlight – a quirky project that has a serious intent and purpose behind it too.”

To launch the piece, musicians from the NZSO participated in a live orchestral performance for the chickens at the Bostock Brothers’ farm in Hawke’s Bay on October 6.

Bostock Brothers and the NZSO have released the symphony online for anyone (or any bird) to enjoy via Spotify and the NZSO’s streaming platform NZSO+, and are encouraging other chicken farmers to play it to their flocks. 

“Chicken farming is incredibly complex and organic farming even more so, and we’re constantly looking for ways to better our practices, ensuring our chickens are happy, healthy and organic,” Bostock Brothers co-founder Ben Bostock said.

“This is why we are thrilled to be partnering with NZSO to bring another first to the local chicken industry – Chook Symphony. While one may consider this a different approach to farming, we know investing in a quality environment for our birds will only further yield quality results.”

Co-founder George Bostock said the composition is as much about giving the birds something special as it is about encouraging the wider industry to do more for their flocks.

The NZSO is equally onboard with the idea.

“The partnership with Bostock Brothers is incredibly unique and we couldn’t be more captivated by it,” NZSO chief executive Peter Biggs said. 

“Never could we have imagined producing a composition especially for a flock of chooks, let alone performing for them, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“In many ways the NZSO considers classical or symphonic music to be ‘organic’, relatively speaking, and as a wider group we’re passionate about local business and ethical farming so there are some lovely synergies between us.

“The Bostock Brothers do things differently and produce a high-quality product. We do too – and we’re hoping this partnership will encourage the wider industry to put animal welfare first, for good,” Biggs said.

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