Whale of a time

In an essay at Interspecies.com, author David Rothenberg touches on millennia of human-to-animal communication through music. From ancient petroglyphs that seem to show humans conversing with whales to Indonesian gamelan performances that leave insects singing in synchrony, from old English recorder tunes written for starlings to jazz musician Paul Winter playing sax to wolf howls, Rothenberg is intrigued with music as a means for us "to learn about and appreciate the animal world."

Interspecies is a 30-year-old nonprofit group best known for bringing musicians in close proximity in the wild with whales and dolphins. But that's just one part of what they're up to. At their Web site, for instance, you can view essays and art intended to promote "an aesthetic model for coexistence between species, with the objective of healing the human species' emotional, spiritual, and cultural ties with nature."

One of their most intriguing projects is the record Belly of the Whale, available at the site. On Belly, contemporary electronic musicians — including Merzbow, Yannick Dauby and LapCore — build pieces around audio samples from the Interspecies library.

Sounds of whales and dolphins have been exciting musicians for decades now — jazz musicians like Winter and Charlie Haden, and classical composer George Crumb, for example — but the sounds from the deep may never have provided so easy a match as with today's otherworldly synthesized aesthetic. What's more, nine of the samples are available as downloadable loops for your own laptop experimenting.

W. Kim Heron is editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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