Why Birds Sing: A Journey into the Mystery of Bird Song

Overview

The astonishing richness of birdsong is both an aesthetic and a scientific mystery. Evolutionists have never been able to completely explain why birdsong is so inventive and why many species devote so many hours to singing. The standard explanations of defending territories and attracting mates don't begin to account for the variety and energy that the commonest birds exhibit. Is it possible that birds sing because they like to? This seemingly naive explanation is starting to look more and more like the truth. ...

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Why Birds Sing: A Journey Into the Mystery of Birdsong

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Overview

The astonishing richness of birdsong is both an aesthetic and a scientific mystery. Evolutionists have never been able to completely explain why birdsong is so inventive and why many species devote so many hours to singing. The standard explanations of defending territories and attracting mates don't begin to account for the variety and energy that the commonest birds exhibit. Is it possible that birds sing because they like to? This seemingly naive explanation is starting to look more and more like the truth. Why Birds Sing is a lyric exploration of birdsong that blends the latest scientific research with a deep understanding of musical beauty and form. Drawing on conversations with neuroscientists, ecologists, and composers, it is the first book to investigate the elusive question of why birds sing and what their song means to both avian and human ears. Whether playing his clarinet with the whitecrested laughing thrush in Pittsburgh, or jamming in the Australian winter breeding grounds of the Albert's lyrebird, Rothenberg immerses himself in the heart and soul of birdsong. He approaches the subject as a naturalist, philosopher, musician, and investigator. An intimate look at the mostlovely of natural phenomena, and now with a CD with over one hour of music and birdsong, Why Birds Sing is a beautifully written exploration of a phenomenon that's at once familiar and profoundly alien.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Nola Theiss
David Rothenberg is a jazz musician and philosopher and he approaches the question of why birds sing from both an emotional and intellectual vantage point. His analysis of birds' songs is done from the tradition of musicians who have tried to capture their songs through notations and physical recordings through the last centuries, but he also is philosophical about birds' motivations and individual talent and styles. This calls for some anthropomorphizing on his part, but his examples of birds that have "played along" with him and imitated and then incorporated his flute's notes into their songs seem to make a case for his theory. Also, there is the story of a lyrebird that heard the song of African birds, was released back into the Australian wilderness; years later, other lyrebirds were singing the tune of the African birds, which seems to make a case for his theory. What's the explanation for these phenomena? As the author says, "The science of bird song, like the art of bird song, is rich in hypotheses but thin on conclusions." It is his journey to understanding the music of birds that is so interesting, like the trip he and another musician took to Australia just to hear the only lyrebird "because he is the only member of his wary, elusive species who can stomach the sight and sound of human beings." The book is filled with illustrations and this paperback edition has a CD of music the author has written in response to bird song, often accompanied by birds. He also includes extensive notes and an index. While some students will find the material written at a very high level, those interested in music and nature will enjoy this book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465071364
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 994,770
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Rothenberg-philosopher and musician-is the author of Why Birds Sing, which has been published in six languages and turned into a TV documentary by the BBC; Sudden Music; Hand’s End; and Always the Mountains. His articles have appeared in Parabola, Orion, The Nation, Wired, Dwell, Kyoto Journal, and Sierra. He is the founding editor of the Terra Nova journal and book series. Rothenberg is also a composer and jazz clarinetist who has released seven CDs, one of which, On the Cliffs of the Heart, was named one of the top ten releases of 1995 by Jazziz Magazine. He lives in Cold Spring, New York.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
1 You Make My Heart Sing 1
2 To Drink the Sound 13
3 She Likes It 31
4 The Song Machine 57
5 Your Tune or Mine? 93
6 Rhythm and Detail 116
7 The Canary's New Brain 145
8 Listen with the Mockingbird 169
9 The Opposite of Time 188
10 Becoming a Bird 209
Afterword: What Do Birds Sing? 231
Acknowledgments 237
Further Reading 239
Notes 243
Illustration Credits 255
Index 257
CD Listening Guide 265
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