Why Birds Sing

7.4/10 based on 4 votes

Inspired by musician and eco-philosopher David Rothenberg’s book of the same title, this documentary explores the intriguing, charming, complex and often conflicting theories on why birds sing like they do and why humans are so attracted to the sound.

The film features contributions from musicians including Laurie Anderson, Jarvis Cocker and Beth Orton; enlightening and often startling analysis from some of the world’s most eminent birdsong scientists; a literary guide to birdsong in poetry; a bizarre birdsong-themed art ‘happening’; the creation of a new musical composition from the Afro-Celt Sound System, entirely made up of manipulated birdsongs; and a strange musical duet at New York’s Bronx Aviary, featuring humans and birds.

Filmed in the forests, aviaries, studios and laboratories of England, Germany and the USA, this is a colourful, entertaining, informative and occasionally weird journey through the songs of nature that have enchanted and perplexed humans for thousands of years.

Released 1 Nov, 2010. 80 min. Director: Archie Powell. TV documentary.

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  • Boooo! The only nteresting part is at 39:42 and it’s actually taken from a BBC documentary.

  • hey

    More drivel. I thought the ‘amateur’ perspective was self-indulgent tripe. I thought the ‘professional’ perspective was just as smug and self-indulgent. An ethologist who has no explanation for behaviour except that it is an ‘evolutionary adaptation’ is playing a one string guitar very badly and actually with this overly reductive approach offering no explanation at all. If everything is an ‘evolutionary adaptation’ then saying so gives no additional information than saying nothing. It is tantamount to saying bird sing because birds sing. No, really? But my budgie liked the birdsong.

  • Roy

    By placing this New Age nut ball on the same level as actual scientists, this documentary does a grave disservice to those people actually trying to explain bird song. It reminds me of the pop culture documentaries aired on the history channel recently where the most outlandish hypothesis is given credence over the more credible simply because the outlandish one gets better ratings. Sure saying the pyramids were built by aliens, the Bermuda triangle is a black hole, or birds compose their own music may draw more viewers, but that does not make it fact. Since flair and not fact is the main driving point of such programs they can not be defined as documentaries and as such have no place on documentarystorm.

  • I admit when I first hear the presenter described as a, ‘avant garde musician’ i cringed. And I think his theroy is pretty indefensible. How can you measure the happiness of a bird while he is singing. i think a more interesting question for him might be…did humans learn music from birds? I did enjoy the bird-inspired musicians and I’m always thrilled to see (or hear) a bit of Attenborough.

  • Woodie.

    oh of course he’s correct….they are singing….and the scientists are correct also….both are right….different perspectives…one scientific one struggling to be artistic..two very human traits….both of course open to being proven wrong from a birds perspective…..the fact that seemingly clever people are arguing over such trivia, points to the fact that they are liking the sound of their own voices…just like the birds…..anyway….who needs these guys to tell us what the birds are doing…id hate to see them at their dayjobs , if this is meant to be their passion…..boringly boring…and a waste of somebodies money making this doc….they should have just donated the funds to some bird sanctuary, and done something meaningful….by the way…my friends have a gander…he cries when he goes into his shelter at night…ever since the goose flew away..he doesnt like being alone ….i suppose thats a sad song…………..its the woodie woodpecker show.

  • I loved it! I also love the songs of birds and sing along with them ocassionally. My belief is this is a simple and beautiful gift from God to man, who created both the birds to sing, and man to be the beneficiary of this beautiful, natural music. Very nice documentary. I especially enjoyed the song the lady was singing with the gutar, it was simply beautiful.

  • barry

    Psalm 104:12 even God said that the birds sing.

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