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David Rothenberg / David Rothenberg: Why Birds Sing

There is nothing more uplifting than waking up on a sunny spring morning to the sound of harmonious and melodic birdsong, and most of us want nothing more than to believe birds really do sing because, like us, they find joy in doing so. But some scientists paint a less romantic picture of the development of birdís musical abilities. They say the bird only sings to communicate messages of danger, territory or attraction. If this is true, then why the variation? Why do some species devote hours to performing their unique talents? Why do some birds learn new songs? And why do some birds seem to like interacting with our own versions of music? Philosopher and musician, David Rothenberg begins his quest for the answers to these in The National Aviary in Pittsburgh. Playing jazz riffs on his clarinet he discovered, to his delight, that a white-crested laughing thrush sang in response to his music.

In Why Birds Sing Rothenberg explores and critiques the latest scientific experiments and discoveries which try to analyse how and why birds sing. He compares these to work from musicians and poets that celebrates bird song, and shows birds singing for their own enjoyment. He introduces us to a man who wrote a two-hundred word book about a three-note bird song, an English poet who wrote a more accurate transcription of a bird song than any other 19th-century scientist, a bird that learns African bird songs on its long trip south in the winter, then sings them in Europe when he gets back in the spring, and a lyrebird who learnt an Australian farmerís flute phrase and taught it to new generations who still sing the song today.

The companion CD contains 12 tracks recorded live by clarinettist Rothenberg and his fellow musicians, improvising with birds on three continents.

David Rothenberg is an author, producer and Professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.