Is Birdsong Music, Speech, Or Something Else Altogether?

Ian Rose at JSTOR Daily:

One hundred years ago, in 1922, the American musician and scholar W. B. Olds contributed to this debate with “Bird-Music,” an essay whose very title itself demonstrates his position. Olds makes the case that not only is birdsong music, but it’s uniquely beautiful and powerful. To him, each species of bird is a star in its own right, and he gives special mention to a few common American birds; the field sparrow’s song is “a perfect accelerando,” while the song of the white-throated sparrow compels him to ask, “Where is there to be heard a finer legato or more definite rhythm?” Above all, Olds seems most inspired by the tiny ruby-crowned kinglet: “It seems scarcely believable that such a cascade of sparkling tones, extremely high in pitch but wonderfully clear, could proceed from so small a throat. The musician who has not heard it has something to live for.”

more here.