Die Vögel Nach Oskar Sala

Right before the tense finale of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, there is a moment of silence. Not just any silence, though, but a meticulously composed one.
Here Hitchcock himself on the scene: “Where the young man opens the door for the first time and sees vast amounts of birds, I’m going to ask for a silence, but I want an electronic silence, a monotony. It might sound like a distant roar of the sea. It should say: ‘We’re not ready to start yet, we’re getting ready, we’re like an engine that is purring.'”
It was Oskar Sala, the German electronic music pioneer, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year, who composed and played this extraordinary music on his Mixturtrautonium, an early predecessor to the synthesizer. In Sala’s groundbreaking score for The Birds there was no actual music, nor recordings of bird calls, only electronic sounds.
When Sala died in 2002, we lost the last human being who was able to play the Mixturtrautonium, but thankfully there are over 1800 analogue audio tapes of his sounds stored at the Deutsches Museum.
Andreas Ammer and Martin Gretschmann, of Console and The Notwist, have been given access to Sala’s archive and have been able to use the sounds to digitally re-imagine Hitchcock’s horror-classic as a radio play.
Here’s Hitchcock again on the notorious attic scene, where he tormented Tippi Hedren, his blonde leading actress, with real birds until she had a nervous breakdown.
“In the attic, I am going to take the dramatic license of not having the birds scream at all. I am going to play the sound as though the birds are saying to Melanie: ‘Now we’ve got you where we want you. And here we come, we don’t have to scream with triumph, we don’t have to scream with anger. This is going to be a silent murder.’
“That’s what the birds are saying. This is exactly what the birds are saying to Melanie Daniel. And I think if I can get the electronic people to do it, then we’ll do it.”
It is this element of silent murder that Ammer & Console have skillfully reconstructed from the archives.
With Oskar Sala, Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren and Axel Milberg, Judith Huber, Stefan Kastner, Miriam Osterrieder, Axel Fischer, Christoph Brandner, Michael Schwaiger and videos by Anton Kaun.
This is a co-production between WDR and Deutsches Museum München with the friendly assistance of the Kulturreferat der Stadt München and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes.