Thousand Mile Songs in a Sea of Sound
376 pp., 7 x 8 in, 30 color illus., 45 b&w illus.
- Published: January 31, 2023
The marvelous sonic world of whales, from the perspective of music and science.
Whale song is an astonishing world of sound whose existence no one suspected before the 1960s. Its discovery has forced us to confront the possibility of alien intelligence—not in outer space but right here on earth. Thoughtful, richly detailed, and deeply entertaining, Whale Music uses the enigma of whale sounds to open up whales' underwater world of sonic mystery. In observing and talking with leading researchers from around the globe as they attempt to decipher undersea music, Rothenberg tells the story of scientists and musicians confronting an unknown as vast as the ocean itself. His search culminates in a grand attempt to make interspecies music by playing his clarinet with whales in their native habitats, from Russia to Canada to Hawaii.
This is a revised edition of Thousand Mile Song, originally published in 2008. The latest advances in cetacean science and interspecies communication have been incorporated into this new edition, along with added photographs and color whale scores.
It is now obviously urgent that we find a way back into a balance with nature that observes, respects, and integrates us into what we have left of the animal world. We will not be able to tackle that without using the tools and the smart minds in the arts and sciences, engaged in crossing that divide and learning the chaotic creative joy of throwing all disciplines into one pot. It's great to see and listen to David Rothenberg's work, harnessing science and music to point out the path of potential dialogue with the natural world and all the wonderful creatures within it.
They say that there are two peaks of intelligence on this planet: humans and cetaceans. I'm not sure about humans anymore, but this book identifies whales and dolphins as living in such a complex world of sound and song that they are certainly high on the ladder. Maybe at the top. I humbly bow to their superiority, and I applaud David Rothenberg for opening their world to us.
Richard Ellis, author of Men and Whales and The Search for the Giant Squid
One of the 10 Best Science Books of the Year.
This guy is capable of some mean jazz with whales. Yes, with whales. … The results are astounding.
The New York Times
While Rothenberg's madcap mission to play jazz to the whales seems as crazy as Captain Ahab's demented hunt for the great White Whale, it is sometimes such obsessions that reveal inner truths. His affecting and often moving music is aural evidence of his attempt to bridge emotion and rationality, with a faintly bonkers but undoubtedly stimulating intent: to push at the barriers between human history and natural history. By coming to a better understanding of these strange, beautiful, and sentient animals, we begin to understand ourselves, too.
London Daily Telegraph