tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Thousand Mile Song: Whale Music in a Sea of Sound

Thousand Mile Song by David Rothenberg
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: music, nature
Recommended for: everyone who cares about the non-human

It was a foregone conclusion that I'd give this the highest available rating. & there's so much that I cd write about it. But I doubt that I'll barely get started.

For me, as for so many people, my interest in the sounds of whales began w/ my discovering the record entitled "Songs of the Humpback Whale" wch, according to Rothenberg, was initially released in 1970 but wch I didn't discover until early 1977 in a more mass market edition.

I've always been interested in seeking out unusual sounds. Around the time I got the "Songs.." LP, I was listening to alotof Yoko Ono, Sun Ra, John Cage, etc.. The whalesong was a particularly exciting discovery b/c it meant getting out of the human realm. I loved it but didn't really get THAT much out of it. Nonetheless, I EARgerly listened to any recordings that came out of compositions that incorporated it somehow. For a while, using whalesong seemed like it was getting to be a cliché. STILL, what a GREAT cliché it was! My interest gradually waned.

Then I heard that David was writing this & I was enthused all over again! I started sending him all the more obscure whale-related recordings I have that I thought he might not've heard: O'Cean's flute playing w/ whales, Interspecies' simulated whale song, Robert Hall Lewis' "Whale Lament", Charlie Haden's "Song for the Whales", that sort of thing.

I sent him a DVD of my comedic interspecies communication movie from 1988 where I attempted to take musique concrete to seals in the North Sea off Scotland. I told him about the guerrilla performance group that I was in, B.O.M.B., using whalesong in the video documentation from our action at the dysfunctional Three Mile Island nuclear power plant on April 3, 1979, etc..

SO, I had a strong personal interest in seeing whether any of this wd make it into the bk. Alas, none of it did (except for Charlie Haden who David probably already knew about).. but, what did make it into the bk is far more important ANYWAY.. so I'm not really THAT disappointed!

What can I say?! There're so many things in this to inspire a person like myself. The info about the speed of sound thru water & the possibility that whales can communicate across oceans? It makes me think of the Bulgarian use of tritones to communicate from field to field, the use of yodelling to communicate from mountains.

I learned that there's software called "Leafy Seadragon" to help w/ human-dolphin communication. I learned that there's a Whalesong Project that enables us to hear realtime via the internet the sound of whales around Hawaii during their mating season. In general, there's so much fascinating info in this bk & it's so fluidly written that I can easily imagine it becoming a best-seller - & it comes w/ a CD of David & friends playing w/ whales or playing music inspired by whales.

As for the CD? I'd give it a 5 star rating too! & it's not even close to what I'd like to hear done along these lines! David details the problems he had w/ even making the recordings in the 1st place. Playing music to whales is considered by some to be harrassment of them &, therefore, against Marine Mammal Protection laws. &, yet, David, too, wd like to see whales protected. The music is fairly straightforward from my perspective. Good, but good in a conventionally aesthetic way. I wd've preferred a much more experimental approach but I'm sure what I'd like to do wd be even more offensive & suspect to whale ecologists that what David did!

ANYWAY, READ THIS BK! & READ DAVID'S PREVIOUS BK: "Why Birds Sing". They're both scholarly, entertaining, thought-provoking, the whole 9 yds.. or thousand miles..

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Thousand Mile Song.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

July 13, 2008 – Shelved
July 13, 2008 – Shelved as: music
July 13, 2008 – Shelved as: nature
Started Reading
October 19, 2008 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.