13 – The World’s Favourite Sound

In all my years of working with sound, I’ve only ever encountered one person who disliked birdsong. The birds have been on Earth far, far longer than we have, so it’s no surprise that their songs affect us.

Professor David Rothenberg is a distinguished professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a world-class Jazz clarinetist, and the author of the classic international best-seller: Why Birds Sing – which has been turned into a feature-length BBC TV documentary.

Dr. Eleanor Ratcliffe is a Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey who researches how our environment affects us from an emotional, cognitive, and behavioral viewpoint. 

David and Eleanor join me today to discuss the world’s favourite sound – bird song – and what the current research shows about its effects on human cognition and wellbeing. David shares his passion for creating music with the sound of nature and explains how birds make the sounds we hear from a physiological perspective. We discuss how the bird’s brain enables them to learn with sound and how even birds with small brains can produce beautiful music. We also discuss how hearing birdsongs can positively affect our mindset and how sound has enabled the evolution and survival of birds since prehistoric times.

“People can build a whole world in their mind through memories and association based on just listening to one very small sound of a bird.”

Eleanor Ratcliffe

This week on the Sound Business Podcast:

  • The sound of birds and how they contribute to a healthy mindset
  • The kind of birdsongs that can be pleasant without being distracting
  • How many animals are capable of producing music
  • How David determines which bird sound to play to
  • Small bird brains and how they still manage to create beautiful sounds
  • The part of the bird that allows them to make two sounds at the same time
  • How a bird’s brain allows them to learn with sound
  • Is it only humans that perceive the harmonic series
  • Did dinosaurs, being the ancestors of birds, also sing
  • How sound enabled the evolution and survival of birds
  • How birdsong affects humans

Connect with Prof. David Rothenberg:

Connect with Dr. Eleanor Ratcliffe:

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