June 29th, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
A StumbleUpon friend of mine recently shared a TREMENDOUS article on whales and whale music with me. To put the effect in the simplest and most straightforward terms I can, it has forever transformed my view of whales and it has had a considerable impact on me, in general. I will share the intro with you here, but beyond this intro, the piece delves into a theory as to why they sing proposed by musician, professor, and author David Rothenberg, as well as the research and lives of David and Daniel Opitz, “a deep-sea diver and full-time self-financed filmmaker who made the acclaimed and award-winning film The Humpback Code.” Anyway, here is the intro:
Before 1970, most of us didn’t know that they sang. The military knew it—while listening, ever vigilant, for the approach of Russian submarines during the Cold War, soldiers heard and recorded whale songs for several decades— but in the world above, we heard nothing, knew nothing. When the recordings finally emerged into the nonmilitary world, the power of the surprise and the beauty of the songs, more than any other factor, gave birth to the modern environmental movement. Rivers in the homeland were aflame with toxic solvents, corporations were honing the ability to lie, the government was as corrupted as a washed-up seal carcass seething with maggots, and yet here was this beautiful, haunting sound that pierced the heart—an ancient song from the blue shimmering world in which all life began.
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.
Now, continue on by reading the full post over at Tricycle: Whale Song: Secrets beneath the shimmering blue.
Related Stories on Planetsave:
- Killer Whales Are Evolving Into Two Different Species
- Victory at sea: Japan suspends antarctic whaling
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