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Song Sessions

Learning from the musical minds of whales

The Latest Update

Winter 2019 Performance Details to come soon!

Posted on July 14, 2019 by Barry Sharp

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.  

 

Overview

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.

 

 

 

 

Project Media

Late-day light in a bluebell wood
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Features: Barry Sharp

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.

Even here
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This work was written by Barry Sharp in 2017 for piano and any other number of instruments. It is a structured improvisation around an evolving set of harmonic material and represents an outgrowth from studies of humpback whale song.

Start and End Dates

09/01/201912/01/2019

Location

Ithaca, New York

1 update
Last update on July 14, 2019

Project Created By

Barry Sharp seeks to create an environment of inclusion and experimentation through new dynamics between performers, composers, and audiences. His works often develop out of a specific sound world from which he sculpts a landscape of harmonic, melodic, and textural ideas. He is interested in how musical experiences vary between performers and listeners, given the…

In Collaboration With

performer, collaborator

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