Whale sounds from thump to song have long struck a chord with NJIT humanities professor, writer and musician David Rothenberg. The rhythms so captivated the intrepid clarinetist that he spent much of last year playing interspecies duets with these melodic mammals. The results have been captured live on compact disc. (ATTENTION EDITORS: Rothenberg is available to discuss his zeal, music or recording sessions. Call Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436 for interviews.)
Whale Music can be heard at http://cdbaby.com/cd/davidrothenberg2, iTunes or www.thousandmilesong.com. Rothenberg’s newest musical offering on CD heralds his also new book (of course, about whales, too): Thousand Mile Song: Whale Music in a Sea of Sound (Basic Books, May 1, 2008). Creature lovers may recall that in 2005, Rothenberg authored the bestselling Why Birds Sing (Basic Books).
To produce the new material, Rothenberg traveled from Hawaii to Russia to play his bass clarinet while recording the sounds of beluga, killer and humpback whales. A never-before-recorded Pete Seeger song, “The World’s Last Whale,” also debuts.
“I see this recording changing how we listen to the sea, leading us to appreciate beautiful and little-known sounds from the world’s watery depths,” Rothenberg said. ECM violinists Nils Økland and Michelle Makarski appear on some tracks.
Rothenberg’s previous recordings include On the Cliffs of the Heart (New Tone Records, 1995) featuring percussionist Glen Velez and banjo player Graeme Boone. The work, praised by composer John Cage, was named a top ten release of 1995 by Jazziz.
Why Birds Sing was published in the US, England, Australia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Korea, China, and Taiwan as both a book and compact disc. BBC television aired a special about it last summer with appearances by Laurie Anderson, Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, and Damon Albarn. Other of his books include Sudden Music: Improvisation, Art, Nature (University of Georgia Press, 2001), Blue Cliff Record: Zen Echoes (Codhill Press, New Paltz, NY, 2001), Hand's End: Technology and the Limits of Nature (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1993), Is It Painful to Think? Conversations with Arne Naess (University Press, University of Minnesota, 1992), and Always the Mountains (University of Georgia Press, 2002).
Rothenberg edited The Book of Music and Nature (Wesleyan University Press, 2001), and Parliament of Minds (SUNY Press, 1999) featuring interviews with leading philosophers in conjunction with a public broadcasting series of the same name.
Rothenberg is the editor of the Terra Nova book series, published by MIT Press, presenting environmental issues as culture, not only policy. His own writing has been anthologized in The Best Spiritual Writing 1999 edited by Philip Zaleski (Harper, San Francisco) and The Soul of Nature: Visions of a Living Earth by M. Tobias. His articles have appeared in Parabola, Orion, The Nation, Wired, and other publications.