A Conference and Concert celebrating the nightingales of Berlin
in music, science, and story
June 1, 2014, 6-8pm
The song of the nightingale, that most poetically praised of European songbirds, has long been studied by biologists, mostly in Germany, because the birds thrive in captivity and use and learn their music in very defined, specific ways that can teach us much about vocal learning in general. Artistically, these birds have offered centuries of passionate inspiration because their sound is among the loudest and most complex in the forest, with a force of delivery that cannot be ignored.
Berlin is a center for many kinds of music, but most people don’t associate the city with bird song. And yet this is the best city in Europe to hear the song of the nightingale. Is it no accident that this famed singing bird of Romantic poetry actually sounds like an analog synthesizer? We truly live in the age of the nightingale, when his music makes more sense to us than ever. This fact hasn’t been lost on scientists at the Freie Universität Berlin, who have the most developed program studying nightingale song in the world. Why would scientists study nightingale song? It is long, complex, beautiful, and hard to explain why such a thing has evolved at all. Do the males compete with each other for female attention with their song? Do they establish their territories? Do they jam together like jazz musicians?
Nightingales have also impressed musicians, poets, novelists and nature writers for centuries. And yet their song is so impossible to encompass with any one form of human knowledge! The Nightingala brings science, poetry, philosophy, and music all together. Not one of them alone is enough to make sense of the song of this incredible bird, we need all the help we can get to delve deep into this beautiful music of nature.
1. The song of the nightingale, Luscinia megarynchos
2. Gaelle Kreens, poem, “Aube Alba Tagelied”
3. David Rothenberg, “The Nightingale as Heard by Different Ears”
4. Holger Schulze, “Leben mit Nachtigallen” [af Deutsch]
5. Korhan Erel and David Rothenberg: “Live with Nightingales”
1. Thrush nightingale song, Luscinia luscinia
2. Gaelle Kreens, Rosa Luxemburg letter
3. Silke Kipper, “Why Science is Interested in Nightingales”
4. Martin Ullrich, “The Nightingale in the History of Music”
5. Cymin Samawaite and Ralf Schwarz with David Rothenberg, “The Nightingale and the Rose,” new songs inspired by the role of the nightingale in Persian poetry
afterparty; out in the Tiergarten listening to whoever is still singing, and whoever still wants to hear more…
Gaelle Kreens lives in Berlin. She is presently performing her collection of texts “South Berlin – North Berlin: a possible reading ” in French and in English, in different places in Germany and France.
David Rothenberg is professor of philosophy and music, New Jersey Institute of Technology, author of Why Birds Sing and Survival of the Beautiful, and an ECM recording artist. He is spending one year on sabbatical in Berlin, in part to make music with nightingales.
Holger Schulze is is principal investigator at the Sound Studies Lab of Leuphana Universität Lüneburg. He serves as curator for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin and as founding editor of the book series Sound Studies.
Korhan Erel is a computer musician, improviser, and sound designer based in Berlin. He is a founding member of Islak Köpek, Turkey’s pioneer free improvisation group.
Silke Kipper is assistant professor at the Free University in the Animal Behavior Group of the Department of Biology. She directs their research program on nightingales in the field.
Martin Ullrich, is president of the Music Academy of Nuremberg and a musicologist specializing in birdsong and the history of music. When his term as president is done he will become the first professor of biomusicology in Germany.
In the compositions of Cymin Samawatie impressionism merges with the vibrancy of contemporary structures—a bridge between cultures, genres and styles. She is one of few jazz singers to sing in Farsi. She has made three albums for ECM with her ensemble, Cyminology.
Ralf Schwarz studied double bass at the Academy of Arts in Bremen. He has worked with Cymin Samawatie since 1993. They are both based in Berlin. Together with Benedikt Jahnel they founded Cyminology in 2002.
Special thanks to:
Reinhard Schafertons and the Faculty of Music and Thomas Düllo and Flora Talasi of Studium Generale at UdK for making this event possible.