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Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music: A Description of the Character and Music of Birds, Intended to Assist in the Identification of Species Commo [Paperback]

By F. Schuyler Mathews (Author)
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Item description for Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music: A Description of the Character and Music of Birds, Intended to Assist in the Identification of Species Commo by F. Schuyler Mathews...

This beautifully written and illustrated guide, originally published in 1904, includes songs from 127 bird species from the eastern United States. The fieldbook contains musical notations of at least two songs for each species as well as reproductions of pen-and-ink studies. Matthews provides detailed descriptions of the birds' physical characteristics and habits in addition to comments on their songs and calls. Useful and enjoyable, this guidebook is filled with valuable information on "the little feathered musicians of nature's greatest orchestra." This book belongs in the collection of all those who appreciate the American tradition of bird watching- and listening. 262 page softcover, from Applewood Books.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Applewood Books
Pages   262
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7" Width: 4" Height: 0.75"
Weight:   0.63 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2003
Publisher   Applewood Books
ISBN  1557095183  
ISBN13  9781557095183  

Availability  0 units.

More About F. Schuyler Mathews

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Naturalist, bird lover, composer, and artist F. Schuyler Mathews studied the birds who frequented the woods and fields near his Campton, NH home. He translated the bird song he heard into musical notes and published his transcriptions and bird descriptions in his Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music in 1904.

F. Schuyler Mathews was born in 1854 and died in 1938.

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1Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Birdwatching > General
2Books > Subjects > Outdoors & Nature > Reference

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Reviews - What do customers think about Fieldbook of Wild Birds and their Music?

An outstanding reprint from the folks at Applewood Press!  Dec 30, 2002
Originally printed in 1904, G.P. Putnam's Sons. Reprinted 2000, Bedford, MA: Applewood Books.

The modern American field guides we are used to -- Peterson, Kaufman, Sibley, etc. -- offer detailed migration information, pithy descriptions of each bird, and digitally enhanced images. On the internet, dozens of bird-identification sites can be found, and many more websites allow bird songs to bubble forth from our computers. It wasn't always this way, though, and F. Schuyler Mathews' 1904 Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music, reissued by Applewood Books, is a pocket-sized reminder of what bird books used to be. Whereas our modern field guides are bent on helping us quickly and accurately identify birds, many popular field guides of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries blended the goal of identification with encouragement for readers to revel in the beauty of birds and their music.

Mathews writes this about the Ruffled Grouse (our Ruffed Grouse): "There is no doubt about it at all, here is the kettledrum of Nature's orchestra!" About the Red-winged Blackbird: "A beautiful slim and smooth black bird with scarlet epaulets sways unsteadily on the supple stem of a cattail on the margin of the pond ..." About the White-throated Sparrow: "This handsomely attired Sparrow is one of the most distinguished members of the family." Contrast this with Sibley's description of the same species: "Smaller and plumper than other Zonotrichia sparrows. Rufous on wings and sharply outlined white throat distinctive." Looking at older field guides, one starts to wonder, in our rage to identify identify identify, has something been lost?

Mathews' Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music describes the Eastern birds (or most of them) in elaborate passages, but what is most ambitious about this book is the music. Mathews renders each bird's song on a musical scale, complete with liner notes and commentary. Don't read music? Don't worry. Mathews offers both a quick primer on how to read music and a glossary of musical terms. Paging back to Mathews' handy glossary, you'll know just what he means when the lark's song is described as affettuoso or the robin's melody as sostenuto. On the other hand, if you do happen to read music, this guide breathes new life into bird songs.

Mathews concedes that

"Of course it is a more or less problematic matter to deal with wild music. It is not amenable in any respect to law. However, the question involved is not whether the bird's song is radically different from ours - we may admit that point - but whether it may be truthfully and logically recorded upon the musical staff. That question, it is the object of this book to answer affirmatively, and with due regard for all the difficulties involved" (xvii).

F. Schuyler Mathews' Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music is not the only book of its time that attempted to capture bird songs on the printed page. S. Miller Hageman's Bird Songs (also of 1904), for instance, presents bird songs in the form of poems. In that book, Hageman not only poetically recreates the rhythm and tone of each bird, but works to capture the poetic essence, if you will, of each species. Many authors writing about birds have focused first on the joy of listening to birds, then on the joy of watching them, as bird songs have been considered a primary enhancement to everyday life. Mathews is simply following along in this tradition.

F. Schuyler Mathews, author of numerous books and field guides in the early twentieth century, was also a careful watercolorist, and this field guide includes 53 plates. Whereas the early editions of Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music, still available in many libraries, featured Mathews' water colors in the three-color lithographic process, the black-and-white reproductions in this volume pale in comparison. That said, this field guide is still a startling little book with the very great potential of helping us see and think about what we've come to take for granted every time we open a field guide.


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