Since many years, musician and philosopher David Rothenberg comes to Berlin in the month of May, to visit some of the most creative and versatile birds around: the nightingales. This year, he has finished his book about his encounters and experiences with Berlin’s Luscinia Megarhynchos. The book, “Nightingales in Berlin: Searching for the Perfect Sound“, was published in May by University of Chicago Press, and David Rothenberg will do a very special reading performance in our shop, supported by sound artist and composer Felicity Mangan. After the reading and performance, if the weather admits, we will head out to look in the neighbourhood for some night singers.
About the book
A celebrated figure in myth, song, and story, the nightingale has captivated the imagination for millennia, its complex song evoking a prism of human emotions—from melancholy to joy, from the fear of death to the immortality of art.
But have you ever listened closely to a nightingale’s song? It’s a strange and unsettling sort of composition—an eclectic assortment of chirps, whirs, trills, clicks, whistles, twitters, and gurgles. At times it is mellifluous, at others downright guttural. It is a rhythmic assault, always eluding capture. What happens if you decide to join in?
As philosopher and musician David Rothenberg shows in this searching and personal new book, the nightingale’s song is so exceptional in part because it reflects our own cacophony back at us. Rather than try to capture a sound not made for us to understand, Rothenberg seeks these musical creatures out, clarinet in tow, and makes a new music with them. He takes us to the urban landscape of Berlin—longtime home to nightingale colonies where the birds sing ever louder in order to be heard—and invites us to listen in on their remarkable collaboration as birds and instruments riff off of each other’s sounds.
Through dialogue, travel records, sonograms, tours of Berlin’s city parks, and musings on the place animal music occupies in our collective imagination, Rothenberg takes us on a quest for a new sonic alchemy, a music impossible for any one species to make alone. In the tradition of The Hidden Life of Trees and The Invention of Nature, Rothenberg has written a provocative and accessible book to attune us ever closer to the natural world around us.
David Rothenberg is distinguished professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is the author of many books investigating music in nature, including Why Birds Sing, Survival of the Beautiful, and Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise. His writings have been translated into more than eleven languages and among his twenty-one music CDs is One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, on ECM.
Felicity Mangan is an Australian sound artist and producer based in Berlin since 2008. In different situations such as solo performance, collaborative projects with other musicians or installation, Felicity plays her found native Australian animal archive, either through stereophonic system or often via hand-made speakers made from re-cycled or displaced objects.