A cultural history of the enduring love of birdsong. In this fascinating account, Richard Smyth asks what it is about birdsong that we so love. Exploring the myriad ways in which it has influenced literature, music, science, and our very ideas of what it means to be human, Smyth's nuanced investigation shows that what we hear says as much about us, our dreams and desires, as it does about the birds and their songs. At a time when our birdsong is growing quieter, with fewer voices, more thinly spread, A Sweet, Wild Note is a celebration of the complex relationships between birds, people, and the land; it is also a passionate call to arms lest our trees and hedgerows fall silent.
'A lively sense of the absurd, a wryly precise prose style and an appropriately magpie-like curiosity for his subject. There's a wonderful democracy of reference to a book that draws on Radiohead and The Simpsons as well as Messiaen and Duchamp; that considers East End bird-catching alongside the Romantics and current bioacoustics research. . . . Smyth has taught himself to hear, and it's impossible to read his vivid account and not listen just a little closer yourself.' -Spectator
'Between the fibrillating throats of birds and the human mind lies an extraordinary landscape, a place created by the intersection of culture, biology, and literature. Richard Smyth is a brilliant, insightful, and witty guide in this fascinating terrain.' -David George Haskell, author, Pulitzer finalist The Forest Unseen
'This is a delightful book that does exactly what it says on the cover: it plays a sweet wild note. If you are already tuned in to bird song you will learn a lot more and if you aren't you will want to be. Reading it honestly seems to have improved my (ornithological) listening and hearing as well as cheering my heart.' -Sara Maitland, author, A Book of Silence