A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When the Birds Sing
(Elliott & Thompson, Jan. 1, 2018)
Birdsong is woven into culture, emotions, and landscape. It is the soundtrack to our world, shaping experiences of place and belonging. We have tried to capture this fleeting, ephemeral beauty, and the feelings it inspires, for millennia. In this rich and insightful account, Richard Smyth asks what it is about birdsong that we so love, exploring the myriad ways in which it has influenced literature, music, and art, our feelings about the natural world, and our very ideas of what it means to be human. Does the song-thrush mean to sing "a full-hearted evensong/Of joy illimited," as he does in Hardy’s poem "The Darkling Thrush?" Examining his own conflicted love of birdsong, Smyth’s nuanced investigation shows that what we hear says as much about us, our dreams and desires, as it does about the birds and their songs. At a time when birdsong is growing quieter, with fewer voices, more thinly spread, this beautiful book is a celebration of the complex relationships between birds, people, and landscape; it is also a passionate call to arms and an invitation to act lest our trees and hedges fall silent.