Bug Music

How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise

David Rothenberg

St. Martin's Press

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In the spring of 2013 the cicadas in the Northeastern United States will yet again emerge from their seventeen-year cycle—the longest gestation period of any animal. Those who experience this great sonic invasion compare their sense of wonder to the arrival of a comet or a solar eclipse. This unending rhythmic cycle is just one unique example of how the pulse and noise of insects has taught humans the meaning of rhythm, from the whirr of a cricket’s wings to this unfathomable and exact seventeen-year beat.

In listening to cicadas, as well as other humming, clicking, and thrumming insects, Bug Music is the first book to consider the radical notion that we humans got our idea of rhythm, synchronization, and dance from the world of insect sounds that surrounded our species over the millions of years over which we evolved. Completing the trilogy he began with Why Birds Sing and Thousand Mile Song, David Rothenberg explores a unique part of our relationship with nature and sound—the music of insects that has provided a soundtrack for humanity throughout the history of our species. Bug Music continues Rothenberg’s in-depth research and spirited writing on the relationship between human and animal music, and it follows him as he explores insect influences in classical and modern music, plays his saxophone with crickets and other insects, and confers with researchers and scientists nationwide.

This engaging and thought-provoking book challenges our understanding of our place in nature and our relationship to the creatures surrounding us, and makes a passionate case for the interconnectedness of species.

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Book Excerpts

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ONE
 
The Seventeen-Year Pitch
 
 
It’s the slowest sonic beat in the animal world. It’s a sound that can be used to mark the phases of a human life. It’s a mathematical conundrum, an unearthly wonder of animal sound. The cloud of insect music you can barely recall. When you last heard it, you were just settling down. The time before that, you were a teenager. Before that it was the year you were born. The next time you will hear it you might be a grandfather.
This time the song arrives, you are smack in the middle of your journey through life.

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Reviews

Praise for Bug Music

"Rothenberg raises thoughtful questions about the nature of music and our ability to communicate with other species. The author's wide-ranging musical interests--from Renaissance madrigals and John Cage to electronica and katydids--together with his playful, almost romantic approach to the subject helps engage general readers, balancing the book's more technical material."-- Publishers Weekly
 
"An enchanting foray."—Nature
"Cicadas aren’t the only creatures that capture Rothenberg’s playful ear and imagination. Adventurous audiophiles will catch Rothenberg’s bug for insect-music appreciation."--Kirkus Reviews "A womderful amalgam of what we appreciate about insects...not jsut the scientific part but also the aesthetic part, the part where we're connecting to another organism." —The Wall Street Journal "Bug Music encompasses an encredible breadth of scale, from the great...to the very, very small."—Mike Pilkington, The Wire "[Rothenberg's] new investigation into the music of bugs follows his other illuminating studies on the music of birds and whales. Bug Music uncovers musical wonders and mysteries on every page, and I'm not going to spoil the utter delight of discovery.I will, though, admit never having liked insects. Now, thanks to Rothenberg, I'm liberated from bug bigotry and am all ears."--The Los Angeles Times "Bug Music is a glorious compendium of trivia, poetry, music, recipes, facts, legends and personal anecdotes...How could anyone fail to love a book filled with such obscure and fascinating details?'—The Globe and Mail

"Bug Music is a cool groove of biology, music, and human culture from an interspecies musician and scholar fully in tune with nature.  It is engaging, wide-ranging, and profound in suggesting that the thrum of insects is a primordial musical beat.  This book is for everyone who has ever marveled at nature or delighted in the sounds of her insect choirs, and especially for those who have done neither."--John Marzluff, author of Dog Days, Raven Nights and Gifts of the Crow
 
"I loved this book. It's inspiring, fascinating, and funny. Bug Music is a foray into another world."—Bernd Heinrich, author of Mind of the Raven and Winter World
 
"Fabulous entomological jazz: David Rothenberg draws together disparate strands of inspiration and writes a new song, full of unexpected riffs and harmonies. Bug Music is a thought-provoking celebration of the acoustic bonds between humans and our insect cousins."--David George Haskell, author of The Forest Unseen
 
"Charmingly conversational, filled with wondrous facts and touching personal reflections, Bug Music will make you think differently about bugs, about music, and about the intersection of the two."--Marlene Zuk, author of Sex on Six Legs and Paleofantasy
 

"A veritable tour de force of delightful and provocative meanderings that circle about, crisscross, and combine to illuminate the primal connection between insect sound and the human sense of rhythm, music, and noise." Lang Elliott, musicofnature.com, author of The Songs of Insects

 
"As a musician and a scientist, I was fascinated by the parallels between the songs of the cicada and the human. Rothenberg is a great conductor in Bug Music, bringing out the melodies and harmonies, and exposing the mysteries, in the great insect orchestra that surrounds us. A must read for all who question and seek our place in nature."--Daniel Chamovitz, author of What a Plant Knows
 
"In the author’s words, ‘We are all connected through the vast music of life.’ Rothenberg’s engaging prose not only inspires us to seek those connections, but to open our ears to the music of insects, to whose tune we all may be dancing."—John Himmelman, author of Cricket Radio
 
"David Rothenberg is like the Greil Marcus of nature. No one writes about the sounds of the wild so smartly, so evocatively, so beautifully. Bug Music is tremendous."--Tom Bissell, author of Chasing the Sea and Magic Hours
 
"Like all of David Rothenberg’s books Bug Music is great fun, but the fun also points to something deeper—the subtle chemistry all earth’s organism’s share and the truth that we humans are no exception. Finding the sheer delight of participating in the hum-drum excitement of nature is a gift and Bug Music points us that direction. And, there is good science here too!"– Kurt Johnson, co-author of Nabokov’s Blues and The Coming Interspiritual Age.
 
 
 
 

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About the Author

David Rothenberg

Philosopher and jazz musician David Rothenberg is professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the author of Survival of the Beautiful, Why Birds Sing, and Thousand Mile Song. He lives in the Hudson Valley, New York.

David Rothenberg

David Rothenberg

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Available Formats and Book Details

Bug Music
How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise
David Rothenberg

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Library Journal Best Books of the Year

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
April 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781250018267
ISBN10: 1250018269
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 288 pages
$9.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
St. Martin's Press
April 2013
Hardcover
ISBN: 9781250005212
ISBN10: 1250005213
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 288 pages, Includes 56 black-and-white photographs and illustrations throughout
$26.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
April 2014
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250045058
ISBN10: 1250045053
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages, Includes 15 black-and-white photographs, 21 black-and-white illustrations and 20 charts and graphs throughout
$16.00
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