Flutes, Bugles, and Birdsong

Brenda Arsic has written on the importance of sound for Thoreau, of the music of nature that predates human-made music, and its superiority (in Thoreau’s view).  He listens to waters and resonant rocks and whispering leaves and wailing winds and the crack of twigs and the crack of dawn and the cry of loons and the whistle of winds on a mountaintop.

Here is Caitlin Lowe’s report, available to my eye this morning as a power saw from the street interrupts more mellifluous sounds.   [http://catlinlowe.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/by-sight-by-ear/ ]

I ask my Polish poet-friend what he misses most when teaching in the States. He’s slow to respond. “Hm. Well my wife, of course. Yes . . . my wife. And our cat.” A smile breaks. “But you know, C, I miss also the birdsong. In Europe the birds sing. Melodies. You can pick them out on the piano. And they sing together too. Yes, they go back and forth. Like hands at the piano. Treble clef.” He stops, thinks, resumes. “In America you have beautiful birds. In Florida for instance. Or maybe where you are from, In Oregon?” I nod. “Our birds are not so beautiful. But your birds don’t know how to sing.”


I wonder if the quality of avian soundscapes in New England and down the coast have degraded in the last century and a half.  Perhaps in the States,  ‘silent springs’ have arrived faster than in Eastern Europe.


5 comments on “Flutes, Bugles, and Birdsong

  1. efmooney says:

    Thanks, David — Branka’s essay is “What Music shall we Have? Thoreau on the aesthetics and poilitics of listening” in *American Impersonal: Essays with Cameron*

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