Sounds and sweet airs that give delight

Caspar Henderson writes beguiling books about the natural world, full of eyecatching detail and plangent commentary. His Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st-century Bestiary came out in 2012. A Book of Noises is a worthy companion – a pursuit of auditory wonders, a paean to the act of listening and a salute to silence. Item: the music of the spheres. (The planets’ orbits, proving unideal and elliptical, suggested to the musically minded astronomer Johannes Kepler an appropriately sad, minor-keyed leitmotif for the Earth, where, he felt, misery and famine held sway’.) Item: the world’s loudest sound. (The asteroid Chicxulub that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago; also an

Musings on harmony, melody and rhythm

Every Good Boy Does Fine – a banal phrase that also just happens to be the key to limitless wonder. You may have learned it, like Tom Stoppard, as Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, or perhaps as the rather more tension-fraught Every Good Boy Deserves Food (whose sinister implication haunted more of my childhood than I ever confessed to my parents). Whichever it is, this mnemonic for the notes that fall on the lines of the stave in the treble clef is where music begins for most of us: the key that turns hieroglyphs into sound and, eventually, meaning. So it was for Jeremy Denk. But, unlike the rest of