Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Review---And Your Bird Can Sing

David Rothenberg
Why Birds Sing
Terra Nova

Birds have inspired musicians, poets and artists of various discipline for centuries. Birds and their joyful songs have enlightened saints, prophets and mystics, not to mention bird watchers and ecologists. Birds have been the subjects of songs, entire music compositions and Alfred Hitchcock's film, but obviously, old Alfred did not quite understand the bird kingdom--he was a product of a paranoid society. (And I don't care much for that film).

However, David Rothenberg, musician, author, professor and philosopher has chosen to befriend the bird kingdom through its musical language. Not only did he write the book, Why Birds Sing (reviewed on this blog), but he also co-produced a remarkable CD of the same title that combines nature with modern technology. While I am not into electronic music myself, (I do not find it healing due to the electromagnetic fields), the music on Why Birds Sing recalls sacred yoiks of the Saami people married to high tech and it recalls magical traditions of indigenous peoples of the world.

A jazz improviser and fan of electronica, Rothenberg certainly appears to be following his passion for birds and for sound design. Some of the bird tunes recall experimental jazz and early 20th century classical music by such composers as John Cage. The birds, such as the Albert's Lyrebird of Australia, the White Crest Laughing Thrush of Asia and other fine avian species have inspired suites (The Lyrebird Suite), and a tune called Sheer Frustration, Really.

You would have to have a sense of humor and wonder, as Rothenberg does to go out into forests and make music with birds. Rothenberg has also made music with whales and all of this has taken him to far corners of this exotic planet earth. Certainly the end result are out-of-the-box even far out recordings that the young and old alike will relish.

While Rothenberg does not solve the mystery of why birds sing, he has provided us with another avenue to enjoy our feathered friends and to strike up a bond between feathered and non-feathered musicians. I gladly accept the invitation.


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