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Why Birds Sing: A Journey Into the Mystery of Bird Song
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Why Birds Sing: A Journey Into the Mystery of Bird Song

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  126 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
The astonishing richness of birdsong is both an aesthetic and a scientific mystery. Evolutionists have never been able to completely explain why birdsong is so inventive and why many species devote so many hours to singing. The standard explanations of defending territories and attracting mates don't begin to account for the variety and energy that the commonest birds exhi ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Basic Books (first published April 12th 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 14, 2012 Ellen rated it liked it
I wish there was an 'unfinished' option as this is among one of the few books I have ashamedly not finished, and there are only about 4 books on that list. Why Birds Sing had such potential and I was very excited to read it, but unfortunately although it may contain much wonderful prose and information on birds and their beautiful tunes, I could not get past the mediocre writing and/or poor editing job.

What could have been a lilting melody fit for the subject was instead an awkward clunk of word
Jan 06, 2009 Heidi rated it liked it
Recommended to Heidi by: browsing library
This book is almost great. I like the concept: pairing scientific studies of bird song with the poetic and aesthetic appreciation of it. But it ends up just saying the same thing over and over in different ways: maybe birds sing just because they want to and enjoy it. Maybe birds have the same need for artistic expression as humans.

I stopped on page 53 because I got distracted with other books, but I doubted that the "debate" would develop much between there and the last sentence on page 229: "T
Oct 15, 2009 Reenie rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I enjoyed this a lot more than I'd hoped to, given the somewhat uninspiring blurb, which basically reads as: 'musician/philosopher starts thinking, and comes up with a revolutionary new explanation for why birds sing that scientists have missed: because they want to!'.

So many things are wrong with that, and they're pretty obvious, so no need for me to diagram it out.

Pleasantly, the book is better than that, and Rothenberg does turn out to know the difference between 'things that I would like to
Feb 06, 2008 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, nature
Absolutely great. Thanks to my old pal Michael Pestel, David & I have played together before as a part of Michael's 'swan song' to Chatham College - where he'd taught for many yrs. This bk is marvelous - very well researched - managing to be of good general interest as well as of good interest to ornithologists & musicians inspired by birdsong, etc, etc.. I've gotten the impression that this bk is popular (or at least by obscurantist standards) & that's just fine w/ me. David explore ...more
Jane G Meyer
Jan 23, 2009 Jane G Meyer rated it really liked it
Shelves: adultnon-fiction
I just happened to be walking past this book in the library and decided to add it to my growing pile. It has been a delightful book to peruse; since I'm not really a birder, nor a musician, nor a scientist, there was much information that simply flew over my head, but I loved his thesis and mode of inquiry and willingness to ask question after question without feeling the need for a definitive conclusion.

More than anything it gave me a new appreciation for the sounds coming from the finches sit
Mark Sullivan
This is a great little book! A lot of the scientific/musical notation tended to go right over my head, but the point of the book was to appreciate the beauty and elegance in bird song, regardless of what science tells us about it. It is pretty amazing to learn what some of these songbirds are capable of. More questions are raised than answered throughout the book. No matter what conclusions are drawn to any of these questions, the one truth that remains the same is the beauty and joy inherent in ...more
Jun 11, 2008 Krista rated it did not like it
Let me just say that I almost NEVER quit books part way through. This one started off ok...interesting look at bird songs because the author is a musician and I think that if he stuck to that angle it would have been good. A new look at something that I've read a bunch on. But then he tries to do science, which he does poorly at best. I don't mind theory, in fact I enjoy the theoretical sciences bunches, but this guy was clearly pulling information out of his ass. Horrible. Got to chapter 3 and ...more
Apr 29, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
After two attempts, I have to put this book down. It promised me science, it promised me music, but all it's delivering, after more than two chapters, is rhetorical questions and contradictory statements. Maybe someone who just wants to read some stories about birds would enjoy this more than I did, but especially after having read The Violinist's Thumb and starting in on that author's newest book, Why Birds Sing is just not giving me what I want out of a book of this type.
Jul 09, 2008 Ellie rated it liked it
A third of the way into this, and I'm not sure what I think. It's part popular science, with a good dose of poetry, as well as what I guess I would call musicology- it may be little too wide-ranging for my tastes. I'm interested in all these things, but so far he hasn't delved deeply enough into any of them. I did, however, feel particularly attentive to the mockingbird I found singing from the top of a telephone pole during my run this I will read on.
Nov 10, 2016 Nicola rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
couldn't finish it I am afraid. D U L L!! I am sure tho that it is a fascinating read if you can get into it, I just found the language so heavy and boring. Also I am not musically attuned so the music parts were a bit lost on me.

It's a bit sad as I really wanted to know....why do birds sing....anyone got the short answer????

Jan 06, 2010 Dnicebear rated it it was amazing
How wonderful and delicious to explore bird song with someone who will accept no easy answer. I especially enjoyed descriptions of the Australian Lyrebird's practices around singing a most unusual song. I'm re-reading the chapter on Mockingbirds and looking forward to listening again to the Mockingbirds singing soon on my street.
Apr 03, 2007 Adele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with imagination
Shelves: nature
This was a great book. I learned so much about birds and it gave me much food for thought. There were many moments when I just had to pause my reading because I was so amazed about the what birds were capable of doing.
Misha Kendis
Aug 20, 2013 Misha Kendis rated it did not like it
Hate this book so much I have to read it for school. Incredibly boring for any youth and may interest some really hardcore science lovers. Otherwise, this book basically keeps reproving the same point over and over again with different examples, dragging on and on and on
May 24, 2009 Miriamjoan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a fascinating subject! Maybe I just like it because I'm a nerd, but it's definitely very enlightening. The fact that the author jams with birds, playing on his saxophone, is pretty cool to me. The science just backs up his idea that birds like to sing, not because the have to...
Stuart Cooke
Oct 22, 2012 Stuart Cooke rated it really liked it
Fascinating inter-species musicology & poetics.
Apr 12, 2007 Mister rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing treatise of scientico-philosophical-poetic descriptions by the wrtier and the best part is the CD that comes up with it as some exotic birds from Down Under chirp in hip hop fashion!
Jul 18, 2012 Deryn rated it really liked it
Reeeeeally needed a CD to accompany this book.
May 07, 2008 Elizabeth marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
As heard on "The Diane Rehm Show" on WYPR.
Beth G
May 28, 2013 Beth G rated it it was amazing
If you like birds, read this book to learn to love them. The author is a philosopher and musician
so his perspective makes the book even more interesting.
Ramey Channell
Nov 29, 2011 Ramey Channell rated it really liked it
Very, very interesting. Very well written.
Malcolm Pinch
Mar 19, 2013 Malcolm Pinch rated it really liked it
Wonderful book.
Didn't enjoy the bit about freezing birds brains and chopping them up though.
May 04, 2008 Sara added it
Shelves: wishlist
if you love me, you will gift me this book.
Baxter Trautman
Charming for the musically and philosophically inclined.
Katie rated it liked it
Dec 22, 2012
Ed Hayden
Ed Hayden rated it did not like it
Jan 18, 2017
Jonathan rated it liked it
Mar 15, 2011
Jacob rated it it was ok
May 10, 2011
Walt rated it it was amazing
Apr 06, 2013
Claire rated it liked it
Jul 17, 2009
kristine rated it it was amazing
Apr 05, 2017
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