DATE: June 30, 2019
TIME: 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
LOCATION: The Studio
Composer David Rothenberg takes the familiar sounds of birds singing, insects chirping, ponds bubbling, and combines them with music, creating a melodious and distinctly unique mélange from what others might hear as background noise — or miss entirely.
“Nature is just there, it shows up, but we are not always paying attention, so we don’t actually listen,” he said. “If you listen, you can hear amazing things.”
Whether he is recording the sounds of nightingales in Berlin, whales in the ocean, or cicadas that found their way onto his shirtsleeve, to Rothenberg the unconventional sounds are a door to a world of information.
“I always thought animal music should be something music students do,” said Rothenberg, a jazz clarinetist, composer, and professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “You should study these sounds that are millions of years old, the way they are put together, and figure out how they fit in now.”
Rothenberg grew up interested in math and science, but when he went to Harvard in 1980, he became absorbed in music, philosophy, environmental science, and “unusual things.” Some of his professors helped him learn to apply what he calls “mystical approaches,” or personally inspired approaches, to music. It transformed him.
“I was always looking for somewhere else to go, some other thing,” Rothenberg said. “I was in between disciplines until I graduated in 1984 so I actually created my own discipline — music and communication. Not communication in any technical sense, it was anthropology, literature, and spiritual things.”
David Rothenberg is a clarinetist, composer, and philosopher known around the world for his music and his books on relationship between humanity and nature. He is the author of Why Birds Sing, on making music with birds, also published in England, Italy, Spain, Taiwan, China, Korea, and Germany. It was turned into a feature length BBC TV documentary. His following book, Thousand Mile Song, is on making music with whales. It was turned into a film for French television. As a composer and jazz clarinetist, Rothenberg has eleven CDs out under his own name, including On the Cliffs of the Heart, named one of the top ten CDs by Jazziz magazine in 1995 and a record on ECM with Marilyn Crispell, One Dark Night I Left My Silent House. Other releases include Why Birds Sing and Whale Music. He invited many musical colleagues to join him on Whale Music Remixed, with contributions from noted electronic artists such as Scanner, DJ Spooky, Lukas Ligeti, Mira Calix, Ben Neill, and Robert Rich.