Whales Alive!

Paul Winter / Paul Halley co-produced by Roger Payne
Whales Alive!

1987 Grammy Nominee

Original compositions by sax and pipe organ, based on melodies by the humpback whales themselves. Leonard Nimoy narrates from "Moby Dick" and the poetry of D.H. Lawrence, Gary Snyder and Roger Payne, giving voice with the same deep feeling for whales that inspired his story for the film "Star Trek IV".

"WHALES ALIVE! looks like a novelty record, and so there's a disquieting surprise in the discovery not only of its intelligence and seriousness, but also of its remarkable musical power.... Paul Winter and Paul Halley have thoughtfully blended their own music...with recordings of the voices of whales.... WHALES ALIVE! actually creates an astounding integration of musical voices, which serves to emphasize the raw, primal and intensely musical quality of the whales as they sing. These pristine, unadulterated voices of nature, subtly shaded by human instruments, have an eerie, haunting, irresistible quality." - Dallas Times Herald

"Humpback whales have been on this planet for millions of years, and for most of that time they have probably been singing. WHALES ALIVE! celebrates this history and the new relationship between humans and whales."

"The changing songs of humpbacks represent a cultural tradition which is passed orally from one whale to the next. That humpbacks have a culture of their own, carried along by oral transmission, is a message that has been amplified in a curious way. In the 1970s, when the Voyager I and II spacecraft were being prepared for their long journeys past Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, and on out of the solar system - a voyage expected to last 1.2 billion years - recordings of the whales songs were placed on board along with the music of Bach and other human greetings, on the off chance that some other spacefaring civilization might find this 'bottle cast into the cosmic ocean'."

"It has been only thirty years since the discovery that whales sing. In this short time, the songs of whales, long confined to within the vaults of the sea, have burst through its surface, flowed over the land, conquered the hearts of their age-old enemy, humanity, and are now bound on a 1.2 billion year journey that will spread them throughout the galaxy." - Roger Payne

The whales came into my life in 1968, when I attended a lecture on whale songs by Dr. Roger Payne at Rockefeller University in New York City. I was thrilled by the soulful beauty of these humpback whale voices, in much the same way as I'd been when I first heard jazz saxophonists like Charlie Parker. Listening to the long, complex songs the whales repeat, I was amazed by their musical intelligence and shocked to learn that these extraordinary creatures were rapidly being hunted to extinction.

Few experiences have had a deeper effect on my life, for this night led me not only to the whales, but opened my ears to the entire symphony of nature. In the years following I sought out whales wherever I could in coastal areas around North America. Occasionally I had the chance to be near them in small rafts and play my saxophone while listening through underwater microphones to their singing. Once you have been close to whales like this, you are, as Leonard Nimoy says in this album, 'changed forever'.

In the course of my growing friendship with Roger Payne, I became familiar with a part of his vast library of whale recordings. The music they inspired in me became part of my repertoire and the humpback whale soon was a charter member of the Paul Winter Consort. During some of our whale-consorting expeditions to places like Baja California, British Columbia, and Newfoundland, we encountered other 'musicians'of the sea, such as sea lions, dolphins, seals, and orcas. In 1980 we produced CALLINGS, a double album of music interweaving the voices of thirteen species of sea mammals. Throughout these two decades, Roger Payne has continued to work tirelessly on behalf of whales, spending time every year in remote areas studying the rare right whales; doing research on bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea, gray whales off the California coast, blue whales near Sri Lanka, and humpbacks in Hawaii; and serving as a representative to the International Whaling Commission. His popularization of whale singing, through his 1970 album, SONGS OF THE HUMPBACK WHALE, was perhaps the greatest single contribution to awakening humanity to whales.

When Leonard Nimoy began work on 'Star Trek: The Voyage Home' , he contacted Roger for the whale recordings used in the film. When the film was released, Paramount Pictures gave a benefit premiere in Boston for Roger's Long Term Institute, to which he invited me. I loved the movie's reverence for the whales and their intelligence, and the fact that in this story whales save the earth. Many of us have long felt that the whales may do just that; they have become a powerful symbol reconnecting human consciousness to the wisdom of the wild world. The night of the premiere, awash in enthusiasm, Roger and I talked until dawn about our long-shared dream of creating an entire album of music based on whale songs. WHALES ALIVE! is the result.

I could not have asked for greater collaborators in the making of this music. Roger Payne is a rare combination of scientist and musician; he is a fine cellist who has played chamber music all his life. His sound-visions played a great part in the creation of our music. Paul Halley, keyboardist with the Consort since 1980 has a harmonic sense as noble as the whales themselves. Leonard Nimoy's concern for the whales is genuine, and his passionate readings inspired several of the pieces. And the whales: they are such inventive melodists, always taking us in new and unexpected musical directions. All but one of the pieces on the album are from melodies "composed" by the whales themselves.

The album was recorded in a series of all-night January sessions in New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Roger and I had gathered themes from countless hours of whale recordings; he would sit up in the organ loft and play them from a tape recorder to Paul Halley, who improvised alluring organ harmonies to accompany the whale melodies.

At my playing post far down the Cathedral nave, listening to the organ with one ear and to the whale through a headphone on the other, I followed Paul's harmonies with my sax and together we extended the whale melodies through improvising in a way similar perhaps to how the whales themselves gradually change and grow their long songs. The experience has been one of the most enjoyable of my musical life.

Whale songs, in this short while since they have come into our culture, have touched the hearts of a human audience so large that whale-watching is now a bigger business world-wide than whale-killing. We have come to value their living beauty more than their dead bodies.

Like the pied piper, whales are luring us to end our 'long loneliness' within the world of nature. I find in this great optimism: for if we can overcome our age-old fears of these largest of creatures, then surely we can overcome our fears of smaller ones, including other humans.

WHALES ALIVE is a celebration of this optimism, and our song of gratitude to whales for the beauty and wisdom they have brought into our lives.


1.Whales Weep Not! (Overture)

3.George and Gracie
5.Concerto for Whale and Organ
6.Humphrey's Bules
7.Queequeg and I
The Water Is Wide
8.Ocean Dream
9.The Voyage Home (Finale)

Narration by LEONARD NIMOY
with Voices of the Humpback Whales

© 1987 Living Music, Inc.
manufactured by Pony Canyon Inc., Japan : D25Y5137

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