A Sweet, Wild Note: What we hear when the birds sing
By: Richard Smyth
A Guardian ‘Readers’ Choice’ Best Book of 2017
Birdsong is the soundtrack to our world. We have tried to capture its fleeting, ephemeral beauty, and the feelings it inspires, for millennia.
In this captivating and lively account, Richard Smyth explores science, music, literature, landscape and the thousand different ways in which birdsong has moved us. A bright song on a lonely street can lift our mood, bringing comfort, wonder or joy. But can we learn to listen, really listen, to what the birds are saying? Or do they just tell us back our own tales?
Exquisite . . . a many textured love song to the bird in all of us
- Miriam Darlington
A delightful meditation on the wonders of nature’s best free show – birdsong – and how it has seeped into our culture through the ages
- Stephen Moss
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
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
- Sarah Maitland
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
Entertaining and idiosyncratic … witty and engaging. He has a penchant for thinking of curious and apt descriptions … A Sweet, Wild Note is often engrossing . . . and, at times, really quite enlightening
- Nick Major, The National