“I am thirsty for this music. I lean nearer. The tiny twig of a tail juts up – the wren stops. I freeze. He sings again. It is as if my listening is stretching out through my fingers to hear more nearly this mini-Paganini, the chanterelle of birds to me, the sweetest, highest string of the violin.” – Jay Griffiths
Rarely is a book so perfectly timed and salient. We live in a time of climatic and ecological crisis. Not least, the global pandemic has shaken humanity to its core. In this context of urgency we welcome the arrival of, Songs of Place and Time: Birdsong and the Dawn Chorus in Natural History and the Arts.
During the first Lockdown in spring 2020 the noise of the human world, stopped. The sound of the places we inhabit changed dramatically – we could hear birds anew, and they could surely hear each other with more clarity too. An environmental acoustic space had opened-up again; something which may not have been experienced for two generations or more.
Perhaps if us human beings could be quiet and really listen to the avian beings, we might realise that the Earth is not ours alone – we share it with all other communities of life. Songs of Place and Time, brings this message so elegantly to the fore. It reminds us of the fragility, beauty and complexity of the natural world, whilst specifically celebrating our creative endeavours to explore the life of birds through the potent agency their voices.
At a majestic 354 pages, this handsome hardback tome features the writings and art of 29 contributors working across many interconnected fields – from ornithology to poetry, ecology to field recording, cultural history to photography, musicology to environmental policy, and much more. Songs of Place and Time is the beautiful result of many years’ research and interdisciplinary collaboration. It is published by our friends Gaia Project and Art Editions North, in partnership with Bath Spa University.
& the moon’s tattered rind
as day gains strength
as if echolocating
in the aerial plankton
the rising sun stirs
– David Borthwick
Image caption: Blackcap singing (detail), photograph by Tim Collier