One evening in 1942, deep inside a wood in the southeast of England, a BBC sound engineer was recording the song of the nightingale. Coincidentally, this was also the night of a British bombing raid on Mannheim, and while the sound engineer was at work 197 bombers fl ew overhead on their way to Germany. The recording begins with the song of the nightingale and continues as the drone of the aircraft slowly increases, becoming a deafening roar as they pass directly above, before steadily decreasing and eventually fading away; throughout the recording the nightingale sustains its song.1, 2 It is a poignant and thoughtprovoking piece. The high, trilling notes of the nightingale are natural and unaffected, and to the human ear, pure, aesthetic and sublime. By contrast, the ominous cacophony of the bombers is the sound of human-made war technologies – the manufactured machines of confl ict and purposeful destruction. Signifi cantly, we can clearly identify what the bombers are for; their purpose is combat, damage and discord. But we cannot say what the nightingale is for; we
cannot think of nightingales in instrumental terms. The nightingale is not a means to some other end, it is an end in itself; it simply is.