Marilyn Crispell and David Rothenberg, August 27th 2016

8. December 2016

I am sitting by the ocean in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, looking for whales, reminiscing about a session I did with Marilyn and David a few months before. The two scenarios connect in my head due to the possibility of whale sightings. Humpback whales, the ones who sing.

Photo by John Lilja

I already saw one from the car. The way you spot them is you look for spouts. This is my fourth time in Hawaii, but I can not say I understand the place or am getting used to the incredible size, depth and darkness of the ocean. I’ve seen many dolphins and turtles already, and really want to experience humpbacks. So every spare moment I am here you find me staring towards the ocean. Why do I come here? To see family. Close family that I need to see. They live here. They are also interested in nature and music like me.

In the first couple of posts of this blog I wrote about how I have felt uncomfortable the last years. I felt like I was stuck and needed to change. I needed inspiration and input. I had been working on learning electronic techniques for a while, but there just wasn’t enough time. I wrote about these things in my grant application, Visiting my friend and pianist Marilyn Crispell in Woodstock, NY, was one of the first things I decided to do after I learnt that I got the grant. Because Marilyn was one of few people I know with the experience to understand what I was going through. And she is also interested in nature and music. And now I am finally starting to get to the point of the post: One of the many great things Marilyn did for me during the visit – she introduced me to her friend David Rothenberg, clarinetist, electronic musician and philosopher. David was mentored by the late Norwegian ecophilosopher Arne Næss, he even wrote a biography about him. Among many other projects, David did a research project on humpback whales and their singing.

Marilyn, David and I did an impromptu session in Nevessa studios August 27th 2016, here is a short excerpt. I feel like you can hear us wondering about the world.

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This session and the whole visit with Marilyn was great. It deserves at least one more blogpost of its own, we want to play more together so I will be making a presentation on my webpage for the project. But for now, let’s move on. David gave me a copy of his book ”Thousand mile song” which he wrote about his whale project. Since I already planned the trip to Hawaii, we talked about that quite a bit. Maui was one of the places David did his research on the humpbacks, He also followed them to the Caribbean and Russia.

I’m struggling with connecting and balancing my interest in music, with all the other parts of my life, bringing my music with me wherever I go. Even to Hawaii. How does one make sense of life, the universe and everything? This seems to come very natural to David. His research in ecophilosophy, is what most people would call a different field from music. Still, he brings his clarinet and electronics with him wherever he travels, which means he is jamming with people all over the world. Don’t know why, but this makes a lot of sense to me, and here comes the real gem: David has taken the creating connections thing to a whole new level – Inter-species communication. He plays with birds, insects and of course Humpback whales. He sets up  on a boat, connects his clarinet to a microphone, which is connected to a underwater speaker. Then he connects a hydrophone (underwater microphone) to a speaker on board the boat, and starts playing. He wants to find out if a musician can connect with the animals sound-wise. He wants to find out if the animals’ use of sound relates to the way humans make music. His book comes with recordings, and in one of the recordings one can hear some whale-human interaction that seem like David is on to something.

Back to Lahaina, Maui, I am still looking for whales and haven’t spotted any yet. But the act of sitting here looking for them reminds me of the summerdays in Woodstock, and how I was lifted from the mindset I was stuck in, and got energized and inspired.

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