Earth Music Bristol

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Episodes

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01The Glee Instinct20111121

Richard Mabey

The Glee Instinct

Richard Mabey reflects on how and why we like to sing together.

The first of five essays inspired by the musical content of the first Earth Music Bristol festival.

Richard Mabey reflects on the compulsion of so many organisms, from humans to cicadas, not just to sing, but to sing together, ensemble, to "join in" - rowdily, competitively, harmoniously.

Largely a personal story: the revelation of early music at school and the romance of singing with girls, listening to roots flamenco in the Extremaduran outback and cranes duetting at the nest in Norfolk (and to David Rothenberg jamming with marsh warblers).

Does this choral impulse spring from archetypal group dancing? Is it encoded in us as social glue, a precursor of language?

Richard Mabey is the foremost nature writer in Britain today: among his books are Food for Free, Nature Cure, Flora Britannica, and Whistling in the Dark

Producer: Tim Dee.

Nature writer Richard Mabey reflects on how and why we like to sing together.

02Birdsong20111122

Tim Birkhead explores how birds learn to sing.

The second of five essays inspired by the musical content of the first Earth Music Bristol festival.

How do birds acquire their songs? The answer is mainly through learning.

He'll discuss how their predisposition to learn, during a very specific time window, allows us to manipulate what they sing and how important that has been for our own culture by talking about an experiment he did looking at what bird song does to our brain.

All of this will be illustrated with examples from canaries, nightingales, bullfinches and some others.

Tim Birkhead is a Professor at the University of Sheffield and a fellow of the Royal Society.

He is the author of The Wisdom of Birds and, forthcoming, Bird Sense among many books.

Producer: Tim Dee.

Behaviour expert Professor Tim Birkhead explores how birds learn to sing.

03On Lyre Birds And Bell Birds20111123

The third of five essays inspired by the musical content of the first Earth Music Bristol festival.

On his first visit to Australia, the composer (and founder director of Earth Music Bristol) Edward Cowie heard lyre birds singing.

He was so impressed that he wrote a piece of choral music inspired by what he heard.

Other Australian birds have since found their way into his work.

He shares his story and his enthusiasm for these natural masters of song.

Producer: Tim Dee.

Composer Edward Cowie shares his enthusiasm for lyre and bell birds.

04Symphonic Impressions20111124

Geoff Sample

Symphonic Impressions

The fourth of five essays inspired by the musical content of the first Earth Music Bristol festival.

Our understanding of bird song hinges on the idea that males sing to declare their territory and attract a mate.

They are effectively in competition with each other and each is a soloist.

So how come the sum of the parts so often sounds like a chorus? How can random self interest produce order? This essay explores how evolutionary influences, shaping the structure of birds' songs and singing behaviour, may have resulted in this impression of symphony in our minds.

Geoff Sample is the foremost bird song sound recordist in Britain.

Producer: Tim Dee.

Bird song recordist Geoff Sample explores whether birds sings symphonically.

05 LASTWoof And Tweet20111125

Paul Farley

Woof and Tweet

A personal essay exploring the overlaps and connections between an enthusiasm for reggae and dub music and the song of the bittern and other big bass stars of the bird world.

Paul Farley is a poet and writer; with Michael Symonns Roberts, he recently published Edgelands.

Producer: Tim Dee.

Poet and writer Paul Farley explores why a bittern can sound like reggae.