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Creativity in Crisis: A Song by Hamish and Lyra Binns

by Katie Gortz on 04/22/2020

The SLU-Madrid Creativity in Crisis series continues with “Mirlos en Madrid,” a song and music video written by Modern Languages and ESL Program Director Hamish Binns with the assistance of his daughter, Lyra.

Binns and his family live in central Madrid in the Malasaña neighborhood, a trendy and bohemian area replete with vintage shops, cozy cafés and colorful urban murals. Inspiration for the song came to Binns through the windows of his apartment on Calle San Vicente Ferrer. Entitled “Mirlos en Madrid" (Blackbirds in Madrid), the song explores the nature of two kinds of birds seen in the sky and on the streets this time of year in Madrid. Binns explains:

"The swifts, devil birds, vencejos, or, as Spanish poet Gustavo Bécquer called them, "oscuras golondrinas," return to Madrid every April and signal the beginning of spring. They never touch the ground but live, eat and sleep in the skies, thus symbolizing the ideal of freedom that humans dream of but can never achieve. On the other extreme, the blackbird spends most of its time foraging for worms and grubs in the soil. Despite its run-of-the-mill appearance and unglamorous life, when it opens its beak, it has one of the most beautiful songs in the animal kingdom, thus representing humanity.”
Between the verses about the two birds, Lyra sings about the daily experience of confinement and the range of emotions she feels, which includes nostalgia about the past, wonder at seeing the stars as the air pollution begins to clear, worry about the future, the pressures of living in close quarters and the experience of observing the suffering of others.
Binns, who wrote the song, said his daughter corrected his Spanish, suggested words and lines, sang, and directed the video.