New Songs of the Humpback Whale


New Songs of the Humpback Whale is a comprehensive investigation into the form and meaning of whale song with graphic visualizations from infographic designer Michael Deal. Liner notes and song selection by artist, scientist, author, and philosopher David Rothenberg. What album was so important that ten million copies of it needed to be pressed at once? Songs of the Humpback Whale, which National Geographic included with every copy of its January 1979 issue, distributed in 25 languages. No human pop star has ever received such magnanimous treatment, so what is it that is so special about the song of the humpback whale? Well, for one, humans knew nothing of this fabulous sound until the US Navy released its classified recordings at the end of the 1960s, at the very moment the world was most poised to listen to the unknown, the psychedelic, and the trippiest of sounds. Humpback whale song fit the bill perfectly. From high wails to deep growls to rhythmic scratches to tearful moans, it encompasses the full range of emotions in the longest song performed by any animal, a tune that can go on for nearly 24 hours at a time. The stereotypical long moan of whale song is only one note in a complex composition, with distinct phrases, repetition, structure, organization, shape, and form akin to many kinds of human music. This is no random outburst of cries and whispers, but a song with power, verve, identity, and design. New Songs of the Humpback Whale aims to gather the best recordings since 1990 by scientists and whale-listeners the globe over, offering a chance to assess what has happened to whale song since 1979. Infographic designer Michael Deal has designed colorful glyphs based on sonograms familiar to sound scientists, making the structure of this grand underwater music easier to understand than ever before. Though humpback whale song did not evolve for humans to appreciate, it may be no accident that humans do. Upon hearing the great song for the first time, whale scientist Roger Payne said he heard the size of the ocean, "as if I had walked into a dark cave to hear wave after wave of echoes cascading back from the darkness beyond ... That's what whales do, give the ocean its voice." Includes recordings by made by Salvatore Cerchio near Madagascar in 1990, Olivier Adam near Madagascar in 2007, Glenn Edney near Tonga in 2008, and David Rothenberg near Maui in 2007 and 2010.