Do whales appreciate clarinet music?

Martin Gardiner - Improbable Research

According to Dr. David Rothenberg professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, in the US, there is a definite possibility that they do. The professor, who is himself a clarinetist, embarked on a preliminary investigation in January-February 2007, when he played a live gig to a group of humpback whales off the coast of Maui, Hawai'i. The music was relayed to the humpbacks (which are renowned for their ‘singing' abilities) via a waterproof aquatic speaker system, and the resulting ‘duets' were recorded via hydrophones for subsequent spectrographic analysis:

"A sound spectrogram suggests that the whale may have altered his song in response to the clarinet."


...says the professor. And the resulting paper ‘Whale Music: Anatomy of an Interspecies Duet' was published in Leonardo Music Journal (MIT), December 2008, Vol. 18, Pages 47-53.

• A recording of the interaction (.mp3 format) can be heard here (via the professor's dedicated website

• An alternative version of the paper (To Wail With a Whale: Anatomy of an Interspecies Duet) can be read in full here.

This post originally appeared on Improbable Research.


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