Interspecies Communications

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Ambient Techno

An Interspecies Jukebox Page

Using animal calls in music

The artistic success, five years ago, of Interspecies' Belly of the Whale CD production, was followed by a collaboration with the German software company, Native Instruments, to design and implement a pavilion at the 2005 Japan EXPO. Our EXPO effort was wildly successful. Working in collaboration with Japan's premier whale conservation group, ICERC, we provided a multimedia tour for children, which focused on the status and behavior of endangered whale species, and which showcased a musical sampling instrument that visitors could play to create their own music using underwater animal calls.

Both of these ambient techno projects has prompted me to continue composing digital music based on natural sound samples. These new musical explorations include many bird and whale calls, lobsters, walrus, plus the sounds of wind, rain, breathing, and falling water. I have now recorded just about enough of this ambient techno to consider releasing a CD sometime in 2010 or 2011.

Humpy's Raga exemplifies this music categorized as "ambient techno". The piece adheres to a classical Hindu structure, although all sounds are oceanic in origin, including humpback whales, dolphins, sperm whales, belugas, bowhead whales, waves, fish, and lobsters. The tabla drums are comprised of a mix of dolphin and cachalot echolocation.

Thunderbird suggests a thunderstorm, with a melody sampled from many North American birds, especially 4 different dove species, plus cowbirds, blue jays, crows, and thrushes.

For over 20 years, Interspecies produced a communication program with the wild orcas that reside in Johnstone Strait British Columbia. Each year, our interspecies objective became more difficult to fulfill, as the strait gradually transformed from a wilderness area into a very noisy waterway filled with ship traffic. Today, we are rarely able to record the orcas without also hearing the throb of some nearby ship.

Final Calm is my attempt to recreate, musically, this newly urbanized environment of Johnstone Strait, with its orcas, lag dolphins, fast currents, plus cruise ships and freighters rumbling through the area every few minutes. At one point in the piece, you can hear samples of the same cruise ship both below water (very loud engine noise), and above water (a dance orchestra).

Orca Jazzy is one of the two or three best examples of realtime interspecies recorded during Interspecies' 25 year tenure of producing live music with the wild orcas of Johnstone Strait. What you hear, is mostly the way one musical relationship developed over a ten minute span in 1988. Like all our music with whales, this was recorded entirely underwater. I have added a slight bit of extra rhythm to the mix, but only to accentuate the natural innate rhythm that pushed this remarkable interaction. These extra sounds were sampled from orca echolocation clicks. If this collection of recorded compositions attracts a record label, "Orca Jazzy" will be the featured piece. You can read a full explanation of how Interspecies produced such live music with wild orcas, here.

— Jim Nollman

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