Every summer for decades, Jim Nollman played music with the same pod of orcas. His book, formerly published as Dolphin Dreamtime, chronicles his exploration of the interspecies language of music as he improvised melodies with buffalo, mosquitos, elk, turkeys, monkeys, dolphins, and with various kinds of whales. “With” is an important word here. Nollman wasn’t attempting to follow the path of scientists who see animals as specimens to be studied. He wasn’t performing communication experiments on animals in a laboratory or an aquarium. Instead, he explored communication with the animals as willing participants in their own habitats. He interspersed his sounds with theirs, overlapping his culture with theirs, to see what could be learned.
Rather than following the scientific method of using these experiences to prove or disprove a theory about communication, Nollman sidestepped science and dove into the heart of the philosophical question “what is knowledge?” Rather than working with long strings of theoretical words, he approached the question with the strings of his guitar, interacting with animals in the context of specific aspects of that question: what are music and communication in an interspecies sense?
Jim Nollman is an internationally known musician and ecologist who doesn't hesitate to get up-close and personal with a pod of gray whales, a herd of buffaloes, and a school of dolphins in his quest to communicate directly with these creatures. His writing conveys his joy and sense of brotherhood in these encounters. 'The Man Who Talks to Whales' opens us up to the idea that animals can educate us and contribute to the growth and development of our own species.
paperback, 184 pages
Sentient Publications, 2002