Hello everyone! Things have been quiet on the blog front recently because I’ve been writing about whales and dolphins for my job! I work as coordinator of Music Planet, an initiative at the University of St Andrews which brings together musicians, scientists and other researchers to explore the relationship between humans and their environment through the performing arts. The goal is to engage new audiences with environmental research and get people to connect to climate change the way they connect to art and music.
The past month and a half I’ve been working to prepare for New Music Week, an annual celebration of innovative new compositions. For two of the events, I’ve been lucky enough to work with the research of leading marine mammal biologists who work at the Sea Mammal Research Unit in St Andrews. The featured composer this year at New Music Week is a Canadian woman called Emily Doolittle who describes herself as a zoomusicologist. She’s fascinated by animal sounds and how humans perceive them as music. Two of her pieces are being performed as part of New Music Week – Social Sounds of Whales at Night, which is named after the label on a St Andrews researcher’s recording of sperm whale clicks, and Conversation, a new piece which has been commissioned specially for New Music Week. Conversation was inspired by research Doolittle undertook with marine biologists in St Andrews about the haunting howls of grey seals when they’re hauled out on the beach. I haven’t heard either piece yet, but you can listen to one of Doolittle’s other pieces on Youtube here – the imitation of birds, whales, and other seaside sounds is really uncanny!
I’ve put together a blog post for the Music Planet website highlighting the intersections between music and science that underpin the concert programme. Although it’s a little different than the usual Wandering the Whale Road fare, it’s all about human responses to the musical cultures of marine mammals, so I hope you find it enjoyable! It includes a video of a whale-inspired composition workshop with local schoolchildren and the chance to hear rare recordings of grey seals howling. I am really lucky to have a job that allows me to explore my personal interest in how the captivating world of cetaceans inspires the human imagination.