October 9, 2013 – Richard Prum “Bird Song and Aesthetics”

Yale’s* Sound Studies Colloquium* continues this semester on the second Wednesday of each month. Please join us next *Wednesday, October 9*, as we feature *Richard Prum*, William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology
and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. We meet in the Whitney Humanities Center, room B04 at 4:30pm. Prof. Prum will present the following talk:

*Bird Song and Aesthetics*
Bird songs form a diverse component of the sound-scape of most biological communities on the planet, and humans greatly admire this diversity. However, this diversity of song has evolved largely because bird songs are attractive to the birds themselves. Darwin originally proposed an aesthetic theory?sexual selection by mate choice?to explain the evolution of bird song and other ornamental traits. Darwin’s aesthetic view has been abandoned in favor of an adaptive model in which all ornaments are indicators of mate quality. In my research, I have described previously unknown bird songs, investigated the anatomy of the unique vocal organ of birds?the syrinx?and studied the physical mechanisms and evolution of non-vocal “feather songs.” In the talk, I will present diverse examples of bird songs and discuss avian acoustic culture through song learning. Lastly, I will introduce an aesthetic philosophy that attempts to unify the study of aesthetics across human and animals (from Mockingbirds to Mozart,
Warblers to Warhol, and Dunnocks to Duchamp). The goal is a non-reductive, ‘post-human’ analytical framework for aesthetics that will expand our understanding of what makes human aesthetic phenomema so extraordinary.

Prof. Prum offers an article as optional background for next Wednesday’s talk. Please contact joseph.clarke at yale.edu or lynda.paul at yale.edu for a copy of the article


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