A celebrated figure in myth, song, and story, the nightingale has captivated the imagination for millennia, its complex song evoking a prism of human emotions,-from melancholy to joy, from the fear of death to the immortality of art.
But have you ever listened closely to a nightingale's song? It's a strange and unsettling sort of composition-an eclectic assortment of chirps, whirrs, trills, clicks, whistles, twitters, and gurgles. At times it is mellifluous, at others downright guttural. It is a rhythmic assault, always eluding capture. What happens if you decide to join in?
As philosopher and musician David Rothenberg shows in this searching and personal new book, the nightingale's song is so peculiar in part because it reflects our own cacophony back at us. As vocal learners, nightingales acquire their music through the world around them, singing amidst the sounds of humanity in all its contradictions of noise and beauty, hard machinery and soft melody. Rather than try to capture a sound not made for us to understand, Rothenberg seeks these musical creatures out, clarinet in tow, and makes a new sound with them. He takes us to the urban landscape of Berlin-longtime home to nightingale colonies where the birds sing ever louder in order to be heard-and invites us to listen in on their remarkable collaboration as birds and instruments riff off of each other's sounds. Through dialogue, travel records, sonograms, tours of Berlin's city parks, and musings on the place animal music occupies in our collective imagination, Rothenberg takes us on a quest for a new sonic alchemy, a music impossible for any one species to make alone. In the tradition of The Hidden Life of Trees and The Invention of Nature, Rothenberg has written a provocative and accessible book to attune us ever closer to the natural environment around us.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 184
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
"David Rothenberg makes music with whales, insects, birds, water, and wind, and writes splendid philosophical meditations about it all. In Nightingales in Berlin
, he tracks the most celebrated of birds. Rather than gushing poetic about it as so many have done, Rothenberg confesses that the sound of the nightingale is completely 'weird, ' and takes as his project to pursue the unknown, to attempt communication with the alien. Listening carefully to birds and humans, Rothenberg offers thoughtful reflections on interspecies communication, dissatisfaction and perfection, science and art, signal and noise, evolution, the world soundscape, and the past and future of the planet."--Christoph Cox, author of Sonic Flux: Sound, Art, and Metaphysics
"The book is memorable chiefly for its deeply-in-the-know exploration of a musical subgenre peopled by sound recordists, experimentalists and jazz improvisers, each working to replicate, manipulate or play counterpoint to the baffling music of the non-human world. . . . Nightingales in Berlin
is a passionate and rather touchingly sincere quest for beauty, human and otherwise."--Richard Smyth "Times Literary Supplement "
"In a sense, the song of the bird in the title of this short, hugely thoughtful and fascinating book is a measure of the gap between nature and human culture. . . . Rothenberg strikes me as bonkers, but also brilliant, and his book expands on this musical challenge to ask key questions relevant to anyone engaged with the natural world."