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Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise
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Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise

3.16  ·  Rating details ·  102 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In the spring of 2013, the cicadas in the Northeastern United States emerged from their seventeen-year cycle--the longest gestation period of any animal. Those who experienced this great sonic invasion compared their sense of wonder to the arrival of a comet or a solar eclipse. This unending rhythmic cycle is just one unique example of how the pulse and noise of insects ha ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Picador USA (first published April 16th 2013)
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Linda Puente
I very seldom read a hundred or more pages of a book and wonder why I am reading it. This one I did, but there were just enough tidbits of odd information to keep me turning the pages.

The book begins just as I expected it would, explaining how, when, and where insects produce their songs. Interspersed in that information are snippets of poetry, ancient and modern. History, poetry, and bugs -- three of my interests all in one book.

But then the author began introducing some rather weird characters
Margaret Sankey
Having lived in Alabama with very loud bugs at night, I appreciate that in any pre-modern soundscape, insect life would be a significant track. Rothenberg, a jazz musician, examines how insects have influenced human aesthetics--folklore that traces the stages of a human life through cicada appearances, Chinese poetry about insects, Asian connoisseurs of fighting crickets and their songs, the scientists who transcribe bug music, compositions like "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and the beautiful harmo ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of nonfiction
I wasn't sure what to expect when I borrowed this book from the library, but I did hope to learn more about the music of the insects that surround us.

I have to admit that I was hoping for a more anecdotal and less scientific account, but this book offers a mixture of both. It's an entertaining book and when my eyes weren't glassed over by the numerous sonograms, graphs, diagrams, and musical scores, I was very engaged by the narrative.

I learned quite a bit, but I wish that a CD was included wi
Kurt Gottschalk
Enjoyable read but his previous books about bird and whale songs have more grist. Listen to my interview with the author here:
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alka, Michael Cummings
Shelves: non-fiction
It took me 4 years to read to page 114 and two days to read the last 128 pages. Wrong/right timing? Maybe. But also the second half of the book is much more accessible to the non-musician (I may also have decided that I didn't have to understand every single piece of information as it pertains to sound waves and dopplers and whatever else he was trying to teach me.)

Although there are certainly some technical aspects to overcome for some of us, the hardest part of the book is actually the clumsy
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Well this book was heavy in the weeds with music.
Bugs make sound, this guy likes sound. Lots of really creative people make music with bugs and study bug sound. This book will let you all about it.
I enjoyed the stories about bugs and their cycles and his travels to make music with them. The charting and talking about washes of sound with lots of technical terms wasn't the best.
This was for a science-y book club so I'll be interested to see what they all think about it.
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-nature
I enjoyed the scientific bits and the bits on cricket keeping and occasional poetry. I'd have benifitted from a greater understanding of the musical terms involved, rhythm, tone,etc. didn't have the accompanying cd, which I think would have greatly enhanced the experience
Jun 06, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aaris Tsiapos
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If your any kind of person who is interested in the correlation between nature and music then this is the book for you, however for someone who finds reading a little strenuous then you may want to read it twice, but an excellent read with small illustrations to aid the reading.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First part was really intersting.
Sylvie Evergreen
Completely accessible and non pretentious. The song of crickets and cicadas is a sacred thing. It does not surprise me in the least that their music is the foundation of our own.
Jun 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
I love insects, I love music. I'm a scientist & an artist (writer/musician). This is great subject matter, and the author traveled the world doing his research. He stuck to the basics, stayed focused and did a decent job of covering the insects he focuses on.

However, he derides scientists throughout the book. He revels in the technology and advancements of science but doesn't care much for the people, taking a dim view of them, and mentioning as much constantly.

Some of his science isn't the
Chris Trevino
Jan 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I am a sound designer & commercial field recordist and came to this text hoping to glean some useful information about unique characteristics of different insects as well as general anecdotes and stories to be able to refer to in teaching others about nature recording.

The text has a heavy concentration on cicadas, crickets and katydids and how they have evolved and adapted over the years. Rothenberg includes many interesting notions of potential historical and cultural throughlines of how in
Shel Schipper
This was a fascinating account of how insect songs and rhythms may have influenced man's development of music. Includes thoughts on the slow 13 and 17 year rhythms of cicadas, the rapid call and response of insects in search of love, and insect songs where they adjust their timing to one another like musicians in an orchestra. This was fun and interesting.
Memorable Quote:
"We are all connected through the vast music of life."
May 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Smarmy, self-congratulatory, disjointed, aggrandizing, unbearable. Fuck this book, basically.

(I do agree with the argument that people should pay more attention to the sounds of their surroundings, but just because the book puts that argument forward doesn't redeem it, it's a piece of shit, why am I even writing about it anymore?)
Stefanie Lubkowski
I read his previous book on whales, and came away loathing his self-aggrandizing writing style and self-centered approach to interacting with animals. But, this book is relevant to my current project, so here we go again. And as expected, there is some great info on cicadas and other singing insects, but you do have wade through a lot of self-indulgent prose.
Science friends, rejoice! This tome speaks your language! Music comrades, celebrate! This book has your groove all worked out.

Ugh. Sorry. I get carried away too easily.

This was an intriguing look at the noise around us all the time and how better to view it as music. The tangents the author took were heavy-handed at times and hard to follow at others.
Jul 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bugsongs. How could I resist? Some interesting thoughts on cicadas and crickets to start out, but then it meanders around with the author's favorite insect-influenced music and his own adventures playing music with bugs, and it's all rather friendly, like a nice stoned hippie telling you stories, but he kind of goes on and on.
Kris Rude
Jul 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to quit reading after one chapter. I heard about the book on NPR and love Diane Ackerman so hoped this would be in the same vein. The idea was great and locusts are fascinating, but the writing was just plain lacking. Very disappointing.
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Two stars = "It was ok" I liked the beginning and the end, but the middle was a slog through a lot of technical language and charts that I didn't really understand. That said, once I reached the end I was intrigued enough to want to find the CD that's supposed to accompany the book!
Aug 14, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Would like to finish this some day...
Dec 16, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so terrible that I refused to finish. Save yourself and move onto something else.
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Very good as Rothenberg considers not only the bugs in depth, but also music and the nature of time. Very enthusiastic about what he's writing about and he passes that on.
Jul 05, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: artists
Interview on Diane Rehm show 7/5/13
Science For The People
Featured on Science for the People show #230 on September 13, 2013, during an interview with author David Rothenberg.
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story is very chatty and personal and fun and informative. I didn't finish it though.
rated it it was amazing
Apr 11, 2015
Josianne Fitzgerald
rated it it was ok
Apr 12, 2014
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