The Latest Update
Winter 2019 Performance Details to come soon!
Thank you New Music USA for supporting our project!
We are looking forward to bringing Song Sessions to NYC and Philly in Winter 2019. Keep an eye out for performance details and follow us here or on Instagram @we_are_whales3.
In collaboration with New York-based Duo Helix (Eric Umble on clarinet and Izzy Gleicher on flute), our project investigates modes of composition in the songs of humpback whales. Entitled Song Sessions, we seek a dialogue between science, the arts and social activism through this project.
Despite the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC), major countries continue hunting whales (including endangered species no doubt) for the sake of tradition and consumption. In fact in 2018 Japan pulled out of the IWC. The 1970s “Save the Whales” movement and the release of “Songs of the Humpback Whale” album helped raise awareness through politics, science, and the artistic community. This movement brought about actual change. Our goal is to build on that history and channel it in our work.
Some whale scholars have studied the songs of humpback whales and their connection with music (Payne 1988, 1985; Rothenberg 2008). Composers as well have drawn inspiration from humpback whale songs (Crumb 1971; Tavener 1966, Cage 1980) or written works that incorporate them (Hovhaness 1970) that were inspired by such studies and the “Save the Whales Movement.” Our project differs from these because we are interested in how to become like these creatures. We want to learn and integrate how they create phrases, how they improvise, or how they generate new singing materials.
Song Sessions seeks to establish the connection between whale and human music. Humpback whales, the most innovative of the baleen whales, sing with a particular sequence of units. These sounds and their order are varied over time, producing new song material. Through innovation, a new idea is accepted or rejected by the collective body of whales. Over the course of twenty years, the song can become totally different altogether. These studies have provided a window into the creative world of another mammal, one that deals with innovation and memory just as our own.
We want to produce a large scale work for flute, clarinet, and live electronics that develops this system and culminates in a performance and recordings of the work. Our project seeks to highlight ways in which science and artistic communities collaborate, and inspire environmental activism through art. By premiering the work in the Ithaca area—where the Lab of Ornithology holds a large collection of whale songs—we hope to engage with these communities through performance, lectures, listening, and recording. We expect this project to contribute to debates in environmental degradation, climate change, and the conservation of endangered animals across the planet.
This piece was written for Amalgama NYC in 2018. It represents the musical processes I have been interested in recently: sculpting musical landscapes from static and minimal harmonic materials.
Start and End Dates
09/01/2019 — 12/01/2019
Ithaca, New York