The Nightingales of Berlin, Lecture by David Rothenberg

The Nightingales of Berlin, Lecture by David Rothenberg

EMPAC Concert Hall

April 24, 2015 7:00 PM - 7:45 PM

When I first heard the song of the nightingale, I was amazed that this bird, which I thought I knew well from the words of Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, sounded so different than I expected.  Expecting beautiful, tumbling melodies, I was surprised to hear electro-like tones, repeating rhythms, almost like a DJ scratching records or break beats from an alien world.  When I play nightingale songs for my students, they think it’s the latest in electronic dance music, and have a hard time believing it is a bird.  Is it possible that this song sounds more musical to us in the 21st century than ever before?  

In Berlin's Treptower Park, starting around midnight the nightingales just need to keep singing.  And not only whistles and clicks, too, but every once in a while they make a cool bluesy sound like a riff on an electric guitar.  How come the scientists never wrote about this sound?  It only comes once in a while.

Turns out nightingales make music the same way humans do.  They only offer a taste of what they are capable of, and do not give it all up at once.  Play along with them and our human sense of music can once again be expanded into wider worlds.

David Rothenberg is a clarinetist, composer, and philosopher known around the world for his music and his books on relationship between humanity and nature.  He is the author of Why Birds Sing, on making music with birds, also published in England, Italy, Spain, Taiwan, China, Korea, and Germany. It was turned into a feature length BBC TV documentary.  His following book, Thousand Mile Song, is on making music with whales.  It was turned into a film for French television. As a composer and jazz clarinetist, Rothenberg has eleven CDs out under his own name, including On the Cliffs of the Heart, named one of the top ten CDs by Jazziz magazine in 1995 and a record on ECM with Marilyn Crispell, One Dark Night I Left My Silent House.  Other releases include Why Birds Sing and Whale Music.  He invited many musical colleagues to join him on Whale Music Remixed, with contributions from noted electronic artists such as Scanner, DJ Spooky, Lukas Ligeti, Mira Calix, Ben Neill, and Robert Rich. 

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