In the Summer issue of Tricycle, “Animal Realm” columnist Rick Bass digs deeper into the lives of our non-human friends with a feature on humpback whales. In “Whale Song: Secrets beneath the shimmering blue” Bass tells us about the work of David Rothenberg, a musician and scholar who plays music to whales.
No scientist in the world will tell you that he or she knows why humpback whales sing. David Rothenberg, a friend of mine, wrote a fascinating book, Thousand Mile Song, which analyzes whales’ music, and he has found it to be the most complicated music in the world. David and others believe that whale songs can transmit vast distances underwater, and he is enthralled with the discovery that each year—after much jazzlike riffing, different whales listening to one another, then answering back with subtle variations—every male humpback whale in the northern hemisphere simultaneously decides on the perfect musical arrangement. This collaboration becomes the composition they all sing for the rest of the year, a complicated underwater orchestra that fills the seas and, perhaps, drives lonely sailors mad with longing and other emotions they—we—cannot even name.
Listen to the jazz man jam with whales below.
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