After Reading “Mozart’s Starling” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Even though I have relished studying, performing, and teaching the music of Mozart for most of
my life, until I picked up the book “Mozart’s Starling” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt, I did not know that,
for three years, this universally admired composer kept a starling, probably one of the world’s
most common and least admired birds, as a household pet. Perhaps I had a vague awareness
that Mozart was fond of birds, but if so, I paid scant attention to the fact. And after reading
Mozart’s Starling, I realize that this lack of attentiveness was a significant missed opportunity
for enhancing my understanding of the beauty and bounty of connecting with the natural world
In keeping with the best books I have read, Mozart’s Starling is both informative and inspiring.
It tells two interwoven stories of human-animal friendship: the story of Mozart and his pet starling,
Star, and the story of the author and her pet starling, Carmen. In the telling of these stories, readers
are treated to a plethora of scientifically based information about the life of birds (starlings in particular) and the nature of sound, music, and language, as well as a breathtaking array of lyrical reflections
on such wide-ranging topics as consciousness, creativity, and time.
But of course, at the heart of these stories is a cherished relationship between a person and a bird, with all the joys and woes implied in living day by day with a creature hugely different from oneself. So, for me, the life-enhancing impact of this book stems from its depiction of the extraordinary creativity that flows when we abolish the boundaries that so often keep us from involving ourselves as fully as possible with the world around us.
“Mozart found inspiration in the presence of a common bird. For us, too, the
song of the world so often rises in places we had not thought to look.”
From Mozart’s Starling, p. 75.
Haupt, Lyanda Lynn, Mozart’s Starling (New York: Back Bay Books, 2017).
Lyanda Lynn Haupt is a naturalist, eco-philosopher, and the author of several books. She describes her evolving thoughts as a writer in terms of “cultivating a connection to the ever-present natural world, and crafting a rooted, creative, authentic life.”
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Living in the middle of things involves a willingness