Very angry tweet: French birds demand share of Messiaen’s royalties

Very angry tweet: French birds demand share of Messiaen’s royalties


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2013

The Union Ornithologique de France is getting into a bit of a flap.

Having belatedly discovered that the late composer Olivier Messiaen introduced pre-recorded sounds of birdsong into such works as Oiseaux exotiques and Réveil des Oiseaux, the UOF is demanding its rightful share of the incoming cash.

If I were the Messiaen estate, I’d pay up without a fight. Ever seen Hitchcock’s The Birds? You don’t want to make them mad.

hitchcock the birds


h/t: Dianne Winsor

UPDATE: The Spanish story was posted on Innocents Day. It ain’t, as the Gershwins put it, necessarily so.


  • If I were in charge of the Messiaen Estate, I’d do nothing of the kind! 1 April 2014 has come very early, it would seem!

    What “rightful share”? Does UOF (I nearly typed “UFO”) own the birds concerned? Has it registered them and their songs with SACEM? Are the birds themselves due performance royalties?

    Messiaen was by no means lacking in a sense of humour; I’m sure he’d be splitting his sides over this if he’d lived long enough to witness it!

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    The birds are not pre-recorded; he notated birdsong and transcribed it for instruments – very loosely unless there really is a bass-bird somewhere!

  • Inocente! Inocente! Dateline on the article is 28/12, which IS the Spanish Día de los Santos Inocentes.

  • Tim Benjamin says:

    Yes it’s clearly a Spanish “April” fool but on a more serious note, don’t dare put recordings of your performances of Messiaen on YouTube, or else the combined might of the world’s record companies will come down on you like a massacre of Holy Innocents, claiming copyright infringement etc etc. Your performance will be deleted without question. Yes I mean the record companies and not the publisher (who might arguably have a claim). This happened (repeatedly) to a good friend who dared to put her performance of bird-related flute music up there!

  • Surely a story to be followed on Twitter!

  • Donald Wright says:

    (BTW, rather tangential to the issue at hand, but Daphne du Maurier’s short story “The Birds,” upon which the Hitchcock film was based, is considerably scarier than the film! In it, the family under attack is isolated on the coast of Britain, and all radio communication in the U.K. has been knocked out as the birds’ attacks become ever more ferocious!)

  • Wish we had a “like” option here.

  • Martin says:

    Rautavaara’s still alive. Sue him before it’s too late to send him to prison!

  • Micaela says:

    Just in from Mundoclasico about the birds:

    They’ve promised that their sub-director, the author, will have no more turron this holiday for his Innocents’ Day joke!

    Clever and quite convincing, I’d say!

  • A completely absurd proposition. There is something especially unreasonable about some French notions of “intellectual property,” such as the idea that it is wrong to call a beverage “champagne,” since they supposedly have some kind of ownership of a pair of syllables.

    No one else in the world is trying put such atrocious heat on someone because of their use of a single word in their language. They have found a way to persist in only apparent “legalities” that do not prevail in other areas of anyone’s ideas of property and cannot survive common sense scrutiny, and they are inconsistent about it – as an obvious example, it may be noticed that they don’t seem interested in curtailing the use everywhere of the word “limosine,” also a regional name in France. Unbelievable pettiness that is not necessarily working to their advantage as whoever is urging it may believe.

    Some international politics is nothing more than spin and PR that only works if enough people accept it. Another example of this, that has fortunately failed, was the effort by Russia to lay claim to the bottom of the sea at the North Pole, in order to claim its oil rights. On Madison Avenue that’s a familiar type of absurd ploy, well-known as “running it up the flag to see whether anyone salutes.”

  • Enrique says:

    Fool’s Day in Spain is on 28 December. It’s a funny one, it must be said.