Do whales appreciate clarinet music?

Illustration for article titled Do whales appreciate clarinet music?

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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I wonder if the whales ever get frustrated that we are basically shouting gibberish at them. The reverse analogy would be a VW bus filled with water, driven by dolphins, cruising along, stopping randomly in front of people, the dolphins push a button and a speaker on the outside says "I want a hamburger".

Of course, we respond to them by asking what they want on it, the dolphins get all excited, and send the same message again. We get frustrated and eventually leave. The dolphins go back to their dolphin university and report that they have proof that humans MIGHT actually be communicating with each other with the strange sounds we make.

When aliens show up, we are so totally screwed.