Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise
St. Martins Press, 2013
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 considers 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.
"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
"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
"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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“Bug Music reflects an undeniable worldwide trend— from ‘vibing’ with trees, birds, insects, night skies and sunsets, humans are beginning to tune into the phenomenon of our cosmos’s subtle realms. Hopefully this is part of our shift to a better world.”
—Kurt Johnson, author of Nabokov’s Blues