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16 Musical Odes To Very Strange Animals

CD sleeves usually feature pictures of the musicians, the text of lyrics and copious thanks.

But the sleeve of Michael Hearst's new CD, Songs for Unusual Creatures, shows pictures of a blue-footed booby, an elephant shrew, a blobfish, a humpback anglerfish and more. (Those images are courtesy of illustrator Jelmer Noordeman, and will appear in a book version of the project, out later this year.)

Hearst, a Brooklyn musician and composer best known as a founding member of the band One Ring Zero, says he finds an affinity between these strange beasts and many strange instruments you never hear at the symphony.

"Some of them were almost built for this album," Hearst tells NPR's Scott Simon. "In particular, there's one that I use for the 'Honey Badger' song, which is the daxophone. 'Dax' [comes from] the German word 'dachs' — just like 'dachshund' — which means badger. The dachshund was a badger hunter. So that song needed to have the daxophone, which is this animal-like-sounding instrument."

You can learn more about the unusual creatures at Michael Hearst's website, and watch him perform "Chinese Giant Salamander" on this page.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

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