The Song of the Earth


The Song of the EarthSome birds make sounds that are musical to our ears. Consider the skylark, whose melodious sounds we label as song. So it’s quite natural to wonder whether there is a connection between animal sounds and the music that humans create.

The deepest mystery of all: What purpose does music serve? Famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough examines various exotic members of the animal kingdom for clues to this fascinating puzzle.

After laying out for the audience the complex structures that transform sound into music - musical phrases, melodies, themes, and variations - Sir David introduces us to the animal acknowledged to produce the most complicated and longest song yet discovered - the humpback whale.

With Cornell University researcher Katy Payne as his guide, he eavesdrops on these gigantic mammals through a hydrophone dropped into the Dominican Republic’s Samana Bay, where the whales congregate during the winter months.

From the Caribbean, the documentary hopscotches to various points on the globe to show viewers a diverse array of animals that make music: to Australia, for the lyre bird; Sumatra, for the Siamang gibbon; and Sweden, for the great weed warbler.

Ratings: 8.89/10from 35 users.

More great documentaries

32 Comments / User Reviews

  1. zorameagle

    to me music is an expression of power in a non physical manner with the goal of sucessfully propagating offsprings

  2. Chase Copeland

    I've trudged through the sediment in search of the rhythm

    Dove soul first to bathe nude in its abyss

    Paid dues and made music my religion

    Now I listen, close my eyes, and forget I even exist

    I sing a bastard's tune, inspired by the noise

    The ship made before it sank and was finally destroyed

    I flaunt the grin of a man made for disguising a boy

    Who tried to avoid showing the cry in his voice

    But there's something special about the notes that he hears

    Those scales are redemption, unravelling repressed memories

    And when he breathes, a new energy enters and consumes him

    To heal his wounds and unseal his doom

    If only I could make you understand

    But words are just words so I can't

    The universe's deepest art form keeps my heart warm with influence

    I tell ya

    Ain't nothing quite as beautiful as music

    Music Music by Eyedea and Abilities

  3. disqus_41nBEHWDWL

    Great doc!

  4. Daniel Brown

    great documentary :) makes me feel less resistant to my animal nature

  5. Crab_Nebula

    A mourning dove outside my window is hooting the tones "B, D#, C..C..C" .

  6. Jan Revolutionair

    The Hip Hop Battles that are going on , are a unique display nowadays of territorial song battles like birds do. Showing who's got the illest rhymes, you are a winner if you were convincing in your creativity and power of sound of the inner world of a human being.. 2pac for example was in this perspective a alpha male in the human world with his convincing way of 'singing' , really amazing how humans in these battles are just doing the most animalistic form of music..

  7. 911_was_an_Inside_Job

    simply amazing.

  8. edward westphal

    could it be that animals make these sounds to be ,or when, they are in, or wanting to be among their community.just as music does to human beings?

  9. ShadowMan

    ..."Money may rule earth, but music rules the universe!"

    1. notzedd

      Money rules MAN, the Earth is under the rule of the Universe.

  10. ShadowMan

    ..."Money may rule earth, but music rules the universe!"

  11. David Ström

    Why must Swedish people always have horrible accents? (I'm Swedish aswell so maybe I'm the only one that finds it extremely annoying) Great documentary!

  12. KsDevil

    The universe is alive with sound announcing it's own existance and this is just one planet's variation. Perhaps we may not understand on an intellectual level, but we some how know the meaning at the more basic level.

  13. lex lexich

    he is the czar, or emperor

  14. Christian Klinckwort Guerrero

    Sir Dvid: I realy wouldn't know wich of your documentaries is the best, this one I may name as a Master Work, Thank You

  15. Guest

    Attenborough and Stephen Fry should participate in a doc together, what a piece that would be!
    Title anyone?
    mine: "the new ten commandments for a better world"

    1. GrittyKat

      Oh, I like that idea!

  16. Sohiniben Shukla

    Song Of The Earth is very good ...I like the music .....and the sounds....
    God Bless you....
    Dr. Sohini Shukla.

    1. Mantid

      When do you think God will bless him? After he dies maybe?

    2. Rebecca

      Well he's alive isn't he? So he's blessed. And so are you. You just haven't realized it yet.

  17. drinker69

    Attenborough is all over the place these days. I'd like to buy you pint of cider sir and a nice beef pie. D.Attenborough for President of Nature!

  18. Christian Klinckwort Guerrero

    Sir David, I'd like to repeat these words I had the opportunity to verbalise to Sir Navil Mariner. I was given the opportunity to thank him for his contribution to the "Joy of life" so I do to you Sir David.

  19. Eric71Can

    Very good doc.
    After women, music is the most beautiful thing in this universe. Or i should say, the most inspiring thing in universe.

    I think David Attenborough has been born to narrate documentaries, he's the best with Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson.

  20. Epicurus

    did anyone else almost s*** themselves when they heard the bird in the second part for the chainsaw?

    lol i even showed my girlfriend and we both suspect David Attenborough of trolling us.

    1. LaBetta

      If you want to see more of that amazing bird you can search Lyre bird on youtube. I was amazed the first time I saw it in another documentary by David Attenborough.

    2. Sieben Stern

      Lyre Birds are amazing! The closest thing i've come across in person is an African grey parrot at a zoo mimicking cell phones and construction beeping XD poor dear was probably bored!

  21. Jordan Lebow

    have to agree with invaluable resource for learning and engaging your emotions!

  22. stephenkuemmel

    BBC, its gonna be good

  23. 1davideo_kidd1

    I haven't watched this documentary yet, but can I take the opportunity to thank Vlatko for this brilliant resource.

    I've learned so much from visiting this site over the last couple of months - it's comparable to formal education and lots more enjoyable most of the time.

    My partner and I have been in tears, laughed, shouted in agreement and opposition to various stuff in the films we've watched. Who needs TV?


  24. Epicurus

    I have been dying to find a documentary about this exact subject.

    thank you very much Vlatko.

    1. Irishkev

      Sir David is The King, d'ye think so Ep ?

    2. Epicurus

      if there were any man worth calling a king it would be Attenborough. and his brother is a pretty cool lad as well.