Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, September 13, 2004


At dinner tonight, showing pictures of whales to the toddling dude, my beloved spouse broke out ye olde LPs to find a Crosby-Nash record with a whale song so the T. D. could dig it. C & N sang pretty, and so did the whale, but the whale wasn’t in much and was mixed pretty low. I remembered that I’d bought an olde LP at a junk shop in the early ‘90s by classically trained “easy listening” founding father Andre Kostelanetz, an album of classical music with a pick-up for-hire orchestra, the repertoire headlined by the debut of a piece with pre-recorded humpback whale song called “And God Created Great Whales.” From sometime in the 1970s.

& wouldn’t you know it, it’s a lovely piece of music. About 11 & a half minutes long. Sweetly whirring free rhythmic orchestral passages, sometimes touched with nice Japanese-esque melodies, sometimes touched with really nice dissonances; the orchestral passages alternating with gorgeous pre-recorded whale song. It’s really quite moving.

The composer, it turns out, is a highly regarded American modernist named Alan Hovhaness, who lived from 1911 to 2000. Would like to hear more of his stuff.

The liner notes (it’s an LP! with a nice painting of a breaching whale!) tell how “the Maestro” Kostelanetz heard a recording of the whale songs and thought that Hovhaness, with whom he had worked before, should write something using them. And so Hovhaness did. And I thank them both for it.

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