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David Rothenberg

USA | Respect Festival

David Rothenberg: Musician playing with animals

David Rothenberg (born 1962) is a professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, with a special interest in animal sounds as music. He is also a composer and jazz musician whose books and recordings reflect a longtime interest in understanding other species such as singing insects by making music with them.

As an undergraduate at Harvard, Rothenberg created his own major to combine music with communication. He traveled in Europe after graduation, playing jazz clarinet. Listening to the recorded song of a hermit thrush, he heard structure that reminded him of a Miles Davis solo. Rothenberg is the author of Why Birds Sing, book and CD, published in seven languages and the subject of a BBC television documentary. He is also the author of numerous other books on music, art, and nature, including Thousand Mile Song, about making music with whales, and Survival of the Beautiful, about aesthetics in evolution. His book and CD Bug Music, featuring the sounds of the entomological world. Thousand Mile Song, is on making music with whales. It was turned into a film for French television.

Rothenberg has performed or recorded music with Peter Gabriel and other jazz musicians. Because of Rothenberg’s study of animal song and his experimental interactions with animal music, he is often called an “interspecies musician.” Most of his work has an environmental theme and involves the sounds of nature, live and in the studio. He has twenty-two CDs out under his own name, including On the Cliffs of the Heart, named one of the top ten releases of 1995 by Jazziz magazine and One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, a duet album with pianist Marilyn Crispell, called “une petite miracle” by Le Monde and named by The Village Voice one of the ten best CDs of 2010.

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