The question of animal intelligence remains a debate. And, despite global warming, nuclear waste, and the worldwide death of bees (along with all the other species disappearing in the planet’s current and 6th extinction spasm), the question of human intelligence remains largely undebated. So it was with a sense of relief that I discovered Interspecies and their live recordings of jazz guitarist Jim Nollman improvising with dolphins, humpback whales and sea lions off the coast of Vancouver Island. It seems that humans may be intelligent afterall.
Interspecies was started in 1978, to grant artists the same access to wilderness and wild animals that is usually reserved for field biologists. Their goal and belief is that science is not the only approach to understanding nature.
As I write this, I am listening to an excerpt from one of Interspecies CD recordings of aquatic animals responding to improvised guitar. It is strangely moving music. The recording was made in an underwater recording studio attached to a boat. Underwater speakers emitted improvised guitar, and hydrophones recorded underwater responses. The whole set-up was stationary, anchored off the north coast of Vancouver Island, ensuring that any animal participation was entirely voluntary.
As Jim Nollman played his guitar over a seven hour period, a small group of dolphins gathered around the boat for the duration. Humpback whales circled farther away, and some sea lions came close at times and then retreated, back and forth, over the day.
You can listen to a six minute sample of the improvised music on the Interspecies website, where you can also buy CDs and DVDs documenting musical interactions between artists and animals. Sales proceeds support Interspecies ongoing research.