287 pages, b/w illustrations
Masterfully weaving science, art, and adventure, David Rothenberg has given us a love song to whale song that is thought-provoking and moving. Before the 1960s, no one suspected the existence of whale song. Its discovery forced us to confront the possibility of alien intelligence – not in outer space but right here on earth.
Thoughtful, richly detailed, and deeply entertaining, Thousand Mile Song uses the enigma of whale sounds to examine the question of whether we can ever truly understand nonhuman minds – and how we should go about it. Through observing and talking with leading researchers around the world as they attempt to decipher underwater music, philosopher and musician David Rothenberg tells the story of scientists and musicians confronting an unknown as vast as the ocean. Along the way, he makes interspecies music the likes of which no one has ever heard before, by playing his clarinet with whales in their native habitats, from Russia to Canada to Hawaii. What goes on in the minds of animals – any animal – is a profound enigma.
In its combination of science, music, and narrative, Thousand Mile Song is an exceptionally insightful and imaginative attempt at understanding one of the most intriguing creatures with whom we share our planet.
"Rothenberg is passionate and sincere, and there is something glorious about his quest."
- The New Scientist
"Rothenberg's compositions can be heard on the CD that comes with his book: affecting and often moving pieces, aural evidence of his attempt to bridge emotion and rationality [...] By coming to a better understanding of these strange, beautiful and sentient animals, we begin to understand ourselves, too."
- The Telegraph
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Philosopher and musician David Rothenberg is the author of Why Birds Sing, which has been published in six languages and turned into a TV documentary by the BBC; Sudden Music; Hand's End; and Always the Mountains. His articles have appeared in Parabola, Orion, The Nation, Wired, Dwell, Kyoto Journal, and Sierra. He is a composer and jazz clarinetist who has released seven CDs, one of which, On the Cliffs of the Heart, was named one of the top ten releases of 1995 by Jazziz Magazine. He is Professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He lives in New York state.