NATURE explores the shared musical heritage of humans and animals in Song of the Earth with David Attenborough.
Some birds make sounds that are musical to our ears. Consider the skylark, whose melodious sounds we label as song. So it’s quite natural to wonder whether there is a connection between animal sounds and the music that humans create. The deepest mystery of all: What purpose does music serve? Famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough examines various exotic members of the animal kingdom for clues to this fascinating puzzle.
After laying out for the audience the complex structures that transform sound into music — musical phrases, melodies, themes, and variations — Sir David introduces us to the animal acknowledged to produce the most complicated and longest song yet discovered — the humpback whale. With Cornell University researcher Katy Payne as his guide, he eavesdrops on these gigantic mammals through a hydrophone dropped into the Dominican Republic’s Samana Bay, where the whales congregate during the winter months.
From the Caribbean, the documentary hopscotches to various points on the globe to show viewers a diverse array of animals that make music: to Australia, for the lyre bird; Sumatra, for the Siamang gibbon; and Sweden, for the great weed warbler.
About the Writer
Jason Kleinman is an Internet consultant and freelance writer living in New York City. He has written extensively about the natural sciences, politics, and popular culture.
Thirteen Online is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York’s Kravis Multimedia Education Center in New York City. Anthony Chapman, Director of Interactive & Broadband. Bob Adleman, Business Manager. Carmen DiRienzo, Vice President and Managing Director, Corporate Affairs.
Original music composed by
LUCY VAN BEEK
With thanks to
BATH INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
KVISMARE BIRD OBSERVATORY
UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY
Written & Produced by
JULIE SCHAPIRO THORMAN
Special Thanks To
THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH
Executive In Charge
A Co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York and the BBC
This program was produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, which is solely responsible for its content.