Birdsong is a signal to my listening brain, a reminder for me to tune in to where I am in time (present) and in space (currently in Paris). Across the rue Gabrielle from where we are living for the year, there is a small, private green space on a hillside, with beehives and an overgrown mass of planted flowers, trees, shrubs, and wild things. It is a green oasis where there are always birds, and two songs in particular provide a constant, welcome background to my reviewing and writing at my desk. There is also a cool cat named Marius, who uses the green space as his own (more on Marius later). This early morning, early evening, singing-in-the-rain birdsong binds me to natural reality; it is literally homing music to my primitive brain. It takes me outside. I need it. This bird presence also reminds me of how important these even minor patches of green are vital to the animal and human community in dense urban areas such as Paris ( 21,498 / km2 versus 3,891 / km2 in Montreal); Montmartre and older neighborhoods are among the most densely populated of western cities (remember that Europeans live in much smaller spaces than do Americans).
«Birdsong» will explore both science and culture, and the connections between. Paris offers a heady stimulus for both and has me thinking across disciplines in my local research team, TESS (Trajéctoires ÉcologiqueS et Société). The local infinite offering of culture : music, literature, theatre, art, film is surreal. If I were a bird, I would surely sing here.