Thoughtful Gifts for Curious People

Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution's Creativity and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction


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Our planet is alive with song, music and speech, and this book is an invitation to listen.  Rainforests shimmering with insect sounds and swamps pulsing with frog calls speak of evolution's creative powers. Birds in the Rocky Mountains and on the streets of Paris show how animals learn their songs and adapt to new environments. Below the waves, we hear our kinship with diverse creatures such as snapping shrimp, toadfish, and whales. The startlingly divergent sonic vibes of the animals of different continents show us the legacies of plate tectonics and the quirks of aesthetic evolution.

Starting with the origins of animal song and crossing the arc of Earth's history, this book celebrates the emergence of the varied sounds of our world. In mammoth ivory flutes from Paleolithic caves, violins in modern concert halls, and electronic music in earbuds, we learn that human music and language belong within this story of evolution. Yet we are also silencing or smothering many of the sounds of the living Earth. Threatened forests, noise-filled oceans, and loud city streets show that sonic crises are not just losses of sensory ornament. Sound is a generative force, and the erasure of sonic diversity makes the world less creative, less beautiful.

Hardback, 448 pages.
Measures 15.3 x 3.2 x 23.4 cm.