The Song of the Earth is an interesting film that investigates the origins of human music by tracing the place of music in the animal kingdom, from the time of early homo sapiens and to its modern state around the world. What exactly are the connections between animal sounds and songs to human music? After defining the different elements of complex human music, such as theme and melody, Attenborough takes us around the world to investigate the animals that express these complexities in their songs and what brings them to devote so much energy to this pursuit.
This documentary examines music, a cultural expression we typically attribute to one of the many sophisticated things that separate humans from “lower” animals. The fascinating aspect revealed in this documentary is how thoroughly wrong we are in that assumption. We’re shown the long and complex songs of humpback whales in the Dominican Republic, which evolve through the seasons as the preferences of single female whales change. Birds utilize multi-syllabized songs to claim territory and to attract mates. Primates sing in families, developing closer familial bonds and scaring off nearby neighbors with the strength of their calls. All of this has a striking resemblance to the uses and benefits humans achieve through musical expression with changing fashions, patriotic songs and war dances pervading incredibly diverse cultures.
Moving through the animal kingdom, we arrive to the early music traditions of the Stone Age. In caves in the South of France, surprisingly complex musical instruments have been found dating as far as back as 35,000 years. Music is clearly a long held tradition for our species and Attenborough introduces us to a scientist who claims that we are creatures who sang before we talked; that music has been with us since before we left the trees. This documentary is fascinating in the questions it raises about the similarities we hold with our fellow animals and about the things that are reserved solely for us humans. David Attenborough is a delight in every narrating role I have seen him in and this is no exception. Despite his academic British air, he has a way of conveying excitement and awe to his viewers rather than radiating stuffy boredom. Whether you know much about music or not, this film is a great one to watch.
Credit: Image by Isaac Kohane
Powered by Max Banner Ads