Birdsong: A Musical Field Guide
Just a Theory Press (2022)
Reviewed by Rachel Dehning for Reader Views (05/2022)
Alexander Liebermann’s “Birdsong: A Musical Field Guide” is a fascinating read because it is universal – it appeals to readers of all interests. When one sits back, clears the mind, and truly focuses on the rich and pure melody heard right outside your home from animals that are thought of as simple, it is mindboggling.
“Birdsong” isn’t long. Out of the over eleven thousand species of birds across the world, Liebermann shows off the musical melodies of ten. The birds are shown off initially with an illustration and a short three-to-four paragraph introduction about them and their transposed melody. Next, one-to-two pages (depending on the bird and its call) of bird music transposed onto sheet music is presented; preceding the music is a QR code for an interactive reading and listening experience. The QR code will take the reader to a YouTube page for each individual bird with a video of them singing their song with the sheet music following underneath. If the reader is musically inclined, for most of the birds, the reader could play their song on the piano, but for at least one of them, the notes of the bird hit above the highest key on the board. Birds from across the world are shown off to gather the appreciation and recognition they deserve.
While each bird has their unique melody that is either noticeable to the ear or taught through the initial commentary, my favorite by sound and surprise was the Emperor penguin. Understanding and knowing that a penguin is a bird, I still did not expect to see one in this book, but instead the smaller species with higher-pitched songs. I learned that the Emperor penguin is able to use both sides of its voice box to make chords, while humans have the ability to only use a single voice box, making our voices sound flat compared to the penguin. I was not aware of the facts I would learn about the Common Cuckoo either – crazy!
Reading “Birdsong” gave me a new appreciation for our feathered friends, both wild and tame. “Birdsong” is versatile and can be used for multiple purposes – it’s educational, informative, musical, and calming – the perfect book to use for coping with stress, a conversation starter on your coffee table or bookshelf, or for bird watchers everywhere to have a better understanding of the creatures they admire. Check out “Birdsong” for both a pick-me-up and a calming experience in the midst of life’s stressors.