Why Birds Sing is the first introduction to the world of bird song that combines the insights of science, poetry, and music. The aim is to show that we need all three human ways of knowing to find the fullest understanding of these beautiful, natural sounds which resound around us every spring.
Rothenberg begins with his own experience playing clarinet along with birds in the National Aviary, and when he finds that the birds seem to respond much more to his music than he expected, he embarks on a journey from ancient writings on to the cutting edge of neuroscience, ending deep in the Australian rainforest where he tries to play along with an Albert’s lyrebird, using all he has picked up along the way.
It is a fascinating tour, along which you will meet the English poet who wrote a more accurate transcription of a bird song than any nineteenth century scientist. You will see how sound recording and computers have revolutionized our ability to print out bird songs and scrutinize the sounds on paper. You will find out why one man wrote a two hundred page book on a three-note bird song. You will meet the one bird that picks up African bird songs on its migratory route, and sings them plain as day in the marshes of Europe. You will learn how neuroscience has discovered that when a canary learns a new song, new neurons appear in his brain. You will find out who and what mockingbirds mock, and in the after all these tales you will finally learn that birds sing for the same reason humans do: because they can, and because they must.
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