Mozart's Starling, with Lyanda Lynn Haupt
We are delighted to welcome Seattle author Lyanda Lynn Haupt (Urban Bestiary, Crow Planet) to Bainbridge Island and hear about her newest book, Mozart's Starling. Haupt will be here Sunday, April 9, at 3pm.
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.
Two centuries later, starlings are reviled by even the most compassionate conservationists. A nonnative, invasive species, they invade 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.
"A brave thing it is to write a love-song to starlings, in a conservation culture inclined not only to struggle with exotic species, but to demonize them. But Lyanda Haupt has done just that -- not as apologist for wildlings in North America, but as celebrant of an utterly extraordinary, beautiful, and deeply engaging animal in and of itself. In prose as lovely as birdsong and as clear and sharp as the cool air itself, she has given starlings -- hers, Mozart's, the whole species--the kind of loving and rigorous Life that every kind of creature deserves but very few get. I thought of Gerald Durrell, Konrad Lorenz, and Jane Goodall, none of whom I loved reading more. The story of Carmen, Star, and their humans is as riveting as a good novel, and I learned as much about Mozart as about birdsong and birdbrains. I enjoyed Mozart's Starling immensely, and I challenge anyone to read it and still treat starlings inhumanely. Lucky is the bird that finds its Papagena." -- Robert Michael Pyle