Talkhouse Earth Day Playlist: Cosmo Sheldrake’s Interspecies Mixtape

Multi-instrumentalist Cosmo Sheldrake combines his passions for nature and music in this playlist.

Multi-instrumentalist Cosmo Sheldrake caught the attention of many eyes and ears when his song “Come Along” — from his new album, The Much Much How How & I — was featured in a recent iPhone ad. Cosmo’s also been outspoken on climate change and even gave a TEDx talk on Interspecies Collaboration, so naturally, we asked Cosmo to curate an Earth Day playlist. Here’s his playlist sent straight from a Brazilian forest to your screen. Enjoy!
—Keenan Kush, Talkhouse Operations Manager

Mort Garson — Mother Earth’s Plantasia
It sort of says it all! Seriously beautiful, inventive music made for vegetal ears. Also recently, there have been some experiments that demonstrate that plants can hear sounds — for example, their roots grow towards the sound of running water, and flowering plants can respond to the sound of pollinators’ wings buzzing by, sweetening their nectar. So it makes it ever more relevant to imagine a kind of music that humans can share with the vegetable kingdom.

Baka Pygmies — “Song for Gathering Mushrooms”
Much of the music that seems to come from the Ituri forest in central Africa feels so much like it has emerged straight from the ground. It feels very organic, not dissimilar from the bird song or any other joyous animal vocalizations. It also feels so connected to the ecology of the place from which it has evolved.

There is a recording that I could not find on YouTube called “Women Gathering Mushrooms,” recorded by Louis Sarno for Bayaka — The Extrordinary Music Of The Babenzele Pygmies, which is one I really wanted to play. The people singing enter earshot from the far distance and stay very much in the background, which allows us to hear the music in its true ecological context as part of the greater acoustic community, occupying an equal place in the soundscape to that of the birds and the crickets.

Björk — “Virus”
Just lovely exploration of biological themes. Sounds like the harmonies are emerging from a primordial soup, at points.

Cosmo Sheldrake — “Wake Up Call (Cuckoo)” 
A tune that I made out of recordings of endangered British bird songs, featuring a solo by a cuckoo. Numbers of cuckoos in the UK have decreased by about 50% since 1995, so let’s bring them into our thoughts a little.

Benjamin Britten — “Friday Afternoons (Cuckoo)”
While on the subject another cuckoo song — just an incredibly beautiful meditation of the passing of the months for a migratory bird. Long may it carry on.

Igor Stravinsky — The Rite of Spring
Just amazing! But best seen live, of course. Just so imaginative and alive. It captures that feeling of the anarchic and chaotic exploding into life.

Charles Mingus — The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
This music feels, to me, like it has just emerged from a swamp. If frogs could play brass instruments, I imagine this is how they would play. One of my favorite Mingus albums. It has a serious spirit of sparagmos to it that is very life affirming.

Paul Giovanni — “Fire Leap”
From the 1973 film The Wicker Man; makes me want to leap naked over a fire.

Moondog — “Enough About Human Rights!”
Too true! “What about what whale rights, what about snail rights, what about seal rights, what about eel rights?”

Yusef Lateef — “The Plum Blossom”
Just an incredibly beautiful piece that conjures that beauty of blossom! So light and fragile.

A photo from Cosmo in a Brazilian forest.

Catch Cosmo Sheldrake on tour in the following cities:
10 May. at Café de la Danse in Paris, France
10 Jul. at Oval Space in London, UK
16 Jul. at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, NY, US
18 Jul. at Schubas Tavern in Chicago, IL, US
19 Jul. at The Drake Hotel in Toronto, ON, Canada
22 Jul. at The Echo in Los Angeles, CA, US
24 Jul. at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, CA, US

(Photo Credit: left, Flora Wallace)