Song of the Nightingale 🐦

In an anthropogenic worldview, nature will often take on an otherwordly or fantastical quality. When humanity is no longer considered a part within nature, nature becomes a detachment that inspires and mystifies. As mentioned by David Rothenberg in the third chapter of his book Nightingales in Berlin: Searching for the Perfect Sound, perhaps this is why the nightingale and other singing birds have entranced humans over the centuries. It has no external musical instruments, nor any methods of recording its songs. And yet these birds have a wondrous gift of melody, capable of constructing unique and complex songs singlehandedly. They contribute to the overall complexity of nature by proving that the production music is not restricted to humans, and that such complex processes as melody can be reproduced without sapient thought.

But even if we consider the alternative worldview, that places humanity inside of the larger concept of nature, the nightingale and its music still holds true as a beautiful thing. Making humanity of subservient importance to nature actually makes more sense in the context of music-making. It would explain how both birds and humans can create and share music. Humanity’s obession over the nightingale’s music and replicating it to some capacity would also make sense here. Seeing the two species as equals and mutual benefactors allows for unique discussion on the transfer of ideas. Music could be considered an example of ideas that can transcend a single species of animal, as humans seek to copy the singing birds, and vice versa.

Either way, it is important to realize that humans have uniquely altered the landscape, and the resulting loss in biodiversity and underappreciation for nature’s wonder has led to the nightingale and its kind to dwindle. They are less noticeable in the dense urban soundscape of cars and industry, and they are less present in the minds of men and women who have less time to think about nature. They were once important enough to be referenced by name in Shakespearean poetry and Romantic literature, but now it feels like as a society we worry more about anthropogenic problems. The road to repariring our relationship with nature is long and arduous, but by listening to the birds sing and understanding the significance of their music, perhaps there will be more incentive to starting the long journey.

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