Sir David collaborated with the singer, Björk, to make the standalone programme, When Bjork Met Attenborough, which Björk said required little persuasion.
When she asked what was the function of music, he replied, “Well, one is absolutely clear, and that is the sexuality.”
He mentioned that in classical times, troubadours would sing to their lady loves who stood on a balcony, entreating them to come down or let them come up. The troubadour was showing his potential shag how clever and generally wonderful he was.
Sir David said that now, “I mean, pop music is hugely sexual.” This, he explained, was evident from its popularity with people from the ages of 15 to 30, when folk are at what he called “the peak of the passion” about music and sex.
Music certainly exerts a powerful effect on the human brain, as demonstrated on the programme by the neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks.
According to Sir David, music takes people “beyond territory, beyond success; into something that is transcendental.” It is “an essential part of what makes us human.”
The larynx, he said, was capable of “so much more variety of sound” than was required for language, which demonstrated that singing is more fundamental to humans than speaking. This caused Björk to comment, “So we’re actually born all free jazz singers but we’re just chatting away.”
Mutual back-slapping ensued.
Of Sir David, Björk told the Independent, “I have learned so incredibly many things from him” and that he was “a natural teacher.” She saluted his enthusiasm and called him “inspiring.”
On the programme, Sir David revealed that he found Björk’s music “challenging,” as it required thought, often being utterly new, and added that he played her music when he really had to think about something.
The pair also discussed gibbons, which sing as a pair after mating, and the liar bird, which can mimic sounds.
Ian Cross, a professor of music and science at the University of Cambridge, declared that if he had to hear something about music on television, he’d much prefer to hear the opinions of Sir David and Björk than “the music hedge fund manager, Simon Cowell.”
Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”