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Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Mozart's Starling

by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

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1267146,895 (4.14)18
Explores the unlikely bond between the famous Austrian composer and his pet starling, providing an unexpected window into human-animal friendships, music, and the nature of creative inspiration."On May 27th, 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met a flirtatious little starling in a Viennese shop who sang an improvised version of the theme from his Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major. Sensing a kindred spirit in the plucky young bird, Mozart bought him and took him home to be a family pet. For three years, the starling lived with Mozart, influencing his work and serving as his companion, distraction, consolation, and muse. More than two centuries later, starlings are reviled by even the most compassionate conservationists. A nonnative, invasive species, they overrun sensitive habitats, outcompete local birds for nest sites and food, and decimate crops. A seasoned birder and naturalist, Lyanda Lynn Haupt is well versed in the difficult and often strained relationships these birds have with other species and the environment. But after rescuing a baby starling of her own, Haupt found herself enchanted by the same intelligence and playful spirit that had so charmed her favorite composer. In Mozart's Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely and remarkable bond between one of history's most cherished composers and one of earth's most common birds. The intertwined stories of Mozart's beloved pet and Haupt's own starling provide an unexpected window into human-animal friendships, music, the secret world of starlings, and the nature of creative inspiration. A blend of natural history, biography, and memoir, Mozart's Starling is a tour de force that awakens a surprising new awareness of our place in the world."--Jacket.… (more)



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An excellent history of how one of the wildlife species most reviled by humans became the beloved muse of one of humanity's all-time favorite composers and musicians. I am an avid birder of many years and this book still taught me a lot about starling behavior, song and plumage, as well as shedding a welcomed light on the creative process and family life of the great composer. Entertaining, informative, and very likely to improve any reader's opinion of starlings. Well worth the read. ( )
  dele2451 | Jun 18, 2019 |
Charming book for any music and/or bird lover. Part memoir of the author's life with a pet starling she raised from a baby with a bit of natural history thrown in and part Mozart's life with a pet starling and the influence it may have had on Mozart's music, most notably "A musical joke" and the endearing character of Papageno, the bird catcher in his opera, "The Magic Flute". Mozart was so enchanted by a starling he found in a pet shop which mimicked nearly perfectly a snatch from one of the composer's concertos that he bought it and took it home with him. The author imagines the bird's life with the Mozart family and offers several theories on how the bird learned the musical phrase in the first place. The European starling was introduced into this country by an eccentric Shakespeare lover who wanted to bring to this country every bird mentioned in Shakespeare. From an obscure reference in Henry IV, he brought the starling from England. It has proliferated and the species has become invasive. Starlings are part of the mynah family and are natural mimics of any sound, not just words. ( )
  janerawoof | Apr 21, 2019 |
Happy speculation about Mozart's relationship with his starling, enhanced by the author's account of hand-raising her own starling, the irrepressible Carmen. Entertaining and informative. ( )
  beaujoe | Nov 5, 2018 |
Haupt, a lifelong bird watcher, rescuer, and researcher wanted to study a starling, probably the most hated bird, and certainly not a protected species. Knowing a nest with its chicks would be destroyed, she "stole" one of the chicks and took it home, where it became a beloved family member. She combines her experience with the story of Mozart, who it is said, heard a birdsong closely resembling one of his compositions when he was passing a pet shop. He bought the bird on the spot, a starling who became a family pet named Carmen. Whether this story is accurate or not is debatable, but it illustrates the attraction that even a lowly creature can inspire. Haupt's book about a bird from the despised species contrasts with one of the most treasured composers.

Her story of Star is fascinating on its own, by weaving it with interesting information about Mozart makes it even more appealing. ( )
  VivienneR | May 3, 2018 |
"In conservation circles, starlings are easily the most despised birds in all of North America, and with good reason."

"Common, invasive, aggressive, reviled. Starlings don't just lie beneath our notice, the sentiment runs, they are actually undeserving of our notice."

I have been birding nearly two years and I did not realize that starlings held this much disdain. Well, I just received an extensive education on starlings, as the author uses these birds as informative and entertaining bookends: In 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, heard a starling singing a fragment of one his compositions, as he passed a pet store. He purchased the bird and kept it as a close companion for the next three years. When Haupt decided to write about Mozart and “Carmen”, his beloved starling, she picked up a baby starling herself, raised it and studied it, while working on this book.
This is an ambitious project, as we get plenty of Mozart history, nuggets about conservation and nature and a complete showcase of the reviled starling.
She is a smart and engaging writer, with a good sense of humor. She has also done her homework. A joy to read. ( )
  msf59 | Mar 26, 2018 |
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