David Rothenberg – Interspecies Musician and Philosopher

David Rothenberg - Interspecies Musician and Philosopher

I'm David Rothenberg and we're here at the Turtleback Zoo Australian aviary because I play my clarinet with birds trying to understand what they're doing why do I do this because I think there's more music in the animal world when there is language because animals make all kinds of sounds but it's not that many animals that have vocal learning for something that humans have whales and dolphins have and songbirds what this means is they can learn to make new sounds other primates it can make new sounds that's why if you want to communicate with chimpanzees they're pushing on different matrix devices or they need sign language whales and humans and birds can learn with sound you don't know why just these animals can learn with you well what kind of sounds they make very often they don't make sounds that have a specific meaning like a language when they make sounds that are structured in and of themselves at the beginning middle and an end like an emotional statement with sound that's what a bird song really is in all its complexity all its structure the song of a Robin the song of a Mockingbird very easy to hear the NJIT campus these are complicated mixtures of sounds of beginning middle and end a syntax rules melodies patterns like pieces of music with their own ways of doing things what do all these sounds mean in all bird songs mean the same thing male birds are singing to defend territories and attract mates they all mean the same thing why then are they so different in complexity one bird might sing a really short song another might like a Mockingbird sing a song that could go on for 40 minutes why does it mean have a song like that you know it doesn't really need it's not do anything more complicated it just has evolved a different way of life and I approaching this as a musician I say that these birds have a different aesthetic they've evolved a whole different aesthetic sense and we can study the aesthetic of bird songs similarly to the way we study the music from a different culture than our own and this is how I've tried to use music to contribute to what science is doing on bird songs now how does one study this in any serious way I say as a musician you cannot study this without recognizing the principles and value of music to aid biology and going after complex songs and this is something that you need to bring art and science together so this is why I've been trying to work together with biologists to combine a musical aesthetic approach to birdsong with a quantifiable scientific statistical approach to birdsong and this unit this is really the perfect kind of work to do at the New Jersey Institute of Technology where art and science come together you know this is why we have the engine knowledge we're at the cutting edge here between different disciplines only an NJIT could a philosophy professor decide he wants to start making music with birds and not get thrown out onto the streets so I'm glad to be here and be able to do this kind of work and thank you for letting me do it for 18 years


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