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It had long been assumed that Mozart wrote A Musical Joke as a spoof of clumsy village bands. Now comes a new theory: On May 27, 1784, Mozart bought a starling. Starlings are a composing species of birds, and Wolfie was so close to his pet that he held a funeral upon its passing. Mozart, it’s speculated, was immortalizing the songs of his dead friend when he composed A Musical Joke just days later. Although George Crumb may not have owned a pet whale, his Vox Balaenae was inspired by recordings of the large aquatic mammals’ songs. In conjunction with the Biomusic Project, “exploring the musical sounds in all species,” National Musical Arts will feature both works in today’s concert of music inspired by the sounds of nature. But the performance is no New Age duet; the chamber ensemble will also play Samuel Barber’s Sonata for Cello and Piano at 4 p.m. at the National Academy of Sciences’ Auditorium, 2100 C St. NW. Free. (202) 270-7732.

(Mark W. Sullivan)