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

By David Rothenberg

The astonishing variety and richness of bird song is both an aesthetic and a scientific mystery. Biologists have never been able to understand why bird song displays are often so inventive and why so many species devote so many hours to singing. The standard explanations, which generally have to do with territoriality and sexual display, don’t begin to account for the astonishing variety and energy that the commonest birds exhibit. Is it possible that birds sing because they like to? This seemingly naïve explanation is starting to look more and more like the truth. In the tradition of classic works by Bernd Heinrich, Edward Abbey, and Terry Tempest Williams, Why Birds Sing is a lyric exploration of bird song that blends the latest scientific research with a deep understanding of musical beauty and form. Based on conversations with neuroscientists, ecologists, and composers, it is the first book to investigate why birds sing and how, and what effect their music has on other animals—particularly humans. Whether playing the clarinet with the white-crested laughing thrush in Pittsburgh, or jamming in the Australian winter breeding grounds of the Albert’s lyrebird, Rothenberg journeys to the heart and soul of bird song. Why Birds Sing offers an intimate look at the most lovely of natural phenomena—with surprising insights about the origin of music.

“In the end, 'Why Birds Sing is one of those ramblings that transforms one of those taken-for-granted things--birds' chirping--into let's-think-about-it-again stuff, and a worthwhile read on a summer day.” — The New York Times

“With a musician’s ear and a poet’s heart, he seeks to describe, more than decode, the nearly boundless richness of birdsong’s beauty.” — Discover Magazine

"Rothenberg stalks the mystery brilliantly, but in the end it eludes him. Perhaps, he suggests, that like us, birds sing for joy, simply because they can." — Los Angeles Times

"[W]hat makes this book unique and, at times, truly beautiful, is its open-endedness, its willingness to be unsure. All his restless questioning brings him back to where he started: an almost transcendental joy at listening to nature's music.” — The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Why Birds Sing offers an intimate look at the most lovely of natural phenomena, and contains surprising insights about the origin of music.” — Bird Times

“Remarkable . . .I cannot say enough good things about this book.” — Parabola

"This is an exuberant book, rich with a love for bird songs and full of the mystery they evoke in the human spirit." — Orion Magazine

"An intriguing exploration into the science and art of birdsong, from musician and professor Rothenberg...Impressive and stimulating: an enticing exploration, from the artist's perspective, into the largely unanalyzed subject of birdsong." — Kirkus Reviews

About the Author:
David Rothenberg is Professor of Philosophy at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His work has been profiled on NPR and the BBC, and he has written for The Nation, Sierra, and BBC Wildlife. A composer and jazz clarinetist, he lives in Putnam County, New York.

Availability: Please allow 3-7 business days for delivery, via Media Mail
Edition:Hardcover, 258 pages
Publisher: Basic Books 2005
List Price: $26.00
ISBN: 046507135X

List Price (plus shipping*)     $28.47   $22.78  


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