Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The logic of birdsong

with one comment

My favorite theory is that the structure of a bird song is determined by what will carry best in its home environment. Let’s say, you have one bird that lives in a coniferous forest and another in an oak forest. Since the song is passed down by tradition, then let’s say there’s an oak woodland dialect and coniferous woodland dialect. If you reproduce the sounds, you will find that the oak sound carries farther in an oak forest than it does in a coniferous forest, and vice versa…

[Bird songs] have an exposition of a theme. Very often, they have variations in theme reminiscent of canonical variations like Mozart’s Sonata in A major, where you have theme and variation. And eventually, they come back to the original theme. They probably do it for the same reasons that humans compose sonatas. Both humans and birds get bored with monotony. And to counter monotony, you always have to do something new to keep the brain aroused.

Luis F. Baptista, in an interview with the New York Times

Written by nevalalee

May 28, 2017 at 7:30 am

One Response

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  1. Very few variations relieve boredom. Many simply add to it. Many themes do not merit being varied.

    galtz

    May 28, 2017 at 1:28 pm


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