Whale Voice Choir is a series of workshops and performances in which people form a choir to sing like whales. Different formats and methods have been used throughout this project. Formal choirs, volunteers or students have taken part in various sessions / performances. Each session however starts with the same basic tools: the performers learn about how whales perceive their environment and communicate with one another. To restrict their senses, the performers close their eyes. Some try to hold their breath as if they are underwater. In their aim to vocalise ‘whale song’, they become more akin to whales and appear to attempt a kind of interspecies communication. This provides to some extent ‘intimacy without proximity’, a feeling of closeness to another species without being physically close.

Whale Voice Choir I from Marina Rees on Vimeo.

- Whale Voice Choir I is a video piece showing the Mouths of the Tyne Community Choir (UK) performing their own interpretation of humpback whale songs.
This video was filmed at the end of a single session, after the performers had been reflecting on the whale’s anatomy and environment and listening to whale sounds. They then started to improvise and interpret whale sounds while picturing themselves in the depths of the sea.

Whale Voice Choir II / Hvalkór from Marina Rees on Vimeo.

- Whale Voice Choir II / Hvalkór is a collaboration with Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson. The Icelandic composer used actual humpback whale sound recordings to structure his piece, which are then played in the ear of each performer who is, in turn, simultaneously singing it. This provides a more rigorous attempt to perform whale sounds, pushing the body further to become more whale.
This set up has been used as a live performance of volunteers amidst an interactive installation of whale bones at Mengi (Iceland). It has also been used for the opening of the exhibition North Atlantic Drift : Pursuing Whales (UK), where a group of volunteers gathered to perform the piece.

Opening of the exhibition North Atlantic Drift : Pursuing Whales, Old Low Light Heritage Centre.

- The third format used is a more developed set of sessions, with a stronger focus on exploring sound as a mean of communication and navigation. Not only do the performers learn about cetacean anatomy and environment, this series of sessions challenges them to navigate their own environment by calling out and listening, even when drowned in sound pollution, as well as developing their individual call (similar to signature whistles used by some cetaceans).

sound sample.mp3
Short sound sample of individual calls from sessions with MFA Performing Arts of the Iceland University of the arts.