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The Sound of Nature

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Butterflies in flight make no sound. And as a high school science teacher, you'd think Jim Centorino would know better than to challenge such an immutable law of nature.

But that didn't stop Centorino, a part-time composer and musician, from including the blue butterfly on "Ivory," an album of musical portraits of endangered species. Most of the featured animals on the recording--the gray wolf, the African elephant, the toucan parrot--make familiar growls and squawks. But the butterfly?

Stranger still, Centorino set out to capture the essence of the butterfly after a lifetime spent playing the trumpet, probably the instrument least suited to the delicate creature.

At age 4, Centorino asked his parents for a trumpet. And he got it. All through his childhood in Salem, Mass., and his teenage years at a New England prep school, he played anywhere he could find an audience. Even after his school band split up, he would still go to football games and sit in the stands belting out Sousa. "I'm a ham sandwich without the bread," he admits.

After college, Centorino broadened his musical talents and tastes at the Boston Conservatory of Music. Always fascinated by film soundtracks and themes, he eventually landed in West Hills, Calif., and studied under Albert Harris, the man who wrote what is arguably one of television's most famous theme songs: the opening to "Hawaii Five-0."

"Ivory," released last year by World Disc Music, is Centorino's first solo album. On several tracks, he even ditches his beloved trumpet in favor of keyboards floating over a background of harp and computer-generated music.

So far, the album has sold 25,000 copies and received high marks from the likes of Stereo Review and a handful of other reviewers. You'll find it at zoos, amusement parks, and "virtually anyplace that sells crystals or telescopes," Centorino says.

The Nature Company eagerly sought to distribute the album until it learned that gunshots rang out on the title track, which depicts the African elephant. Centorino did bow to the Nature Company's commercial concerns and agreed to make a second version of the album without the shots.

But he held firm when producers tried to add butterfly "noises" by mixing in something that sounded like crinkling cellophane. "This won't make it," Centorino told them. "Butterflies don't make noise. They don't even fly if it's windy."

-- Drew Lindsay

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