Produced by

A Whale of an Inspiration

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Soundcheck series "Music by the Book" continues with a whale of a tale: Moby-Dick. Today, we look at why Herman Melville’s 1851 classic has inspired so much music, with composer Jake Heggie, whose operatic adaptation of Moby-Dick will premiere at the Dallas Opera in 2010, and Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex and a forward to the 150th anniversary edition of Moby-Dick.


Jake Heggie and Nathaniel Philbrick

Comments [9]

Frank from Long Island N.Y.

Great show; Moby Dick and music caused me to think of the (concept) album "A Salty Dog" by Procul Harum; I may brake out the vinyl and listen again.

I read Moby Dick (on my own to see if I could); interesting but difficult book and one needs familiarity with the old testament to get much of the symbolism.

Aug. 03 2009 02:47 PM
mozo from nyc

Full disclosure: I did finish and eventually enjoy "Moby-Dick" but it was tough. Melville's short story, "Bartleby The Scrivener" is one of my favorites.

I guess I was trying to say that I feel there are a lot of people who have used this book as a sort of social currency especially among bookish folk.

I'm gonna check out all these musical suggstions. Thanks, gang!

Aug. 03 2009 02:36 PM
bob from huntington

"Nantucket Sleighride" anyone??

Aug. 03 2009 02:32 PM
nina from east village nyc

About Rinde Eckert's piece--YES!!
He come closest to capturing the spirit of the book and something essential about American sensibility, too . . .
He's one of the great unsung heroes of American theater, music and dance. Glad to see his name here!!!

Aug. 03 2009 02:29 PM
nina from east village nyc

Yes, it's hard to read--Melville's style and approach changed as his reading changed--you can hear Shakespeare in there as well as the Bible as well as other texts. He wrote while he read and there are such mystifying shifts of voice (and reference) in it as a result. But I love the idea of reading bits of it, randomly, as one would the Bible . . . that works!!! I read it all the way through, by the way, but I had the help of a course in American Romanticism for which it was an assigned text. I had never been able to get through it before.
No film could adequately represent the book, which really casts a spell at the same time as it mystifies the reader . . .
Right now my favorite scene in it is the one where the boat breaks through to the birthing center of the whale world . . . amazingly poetic stuff there!!

Aug. 03 2009 02:26 PM
mozo from nyc


Wow -- forgot about them. Great band, will listen to this album later today. Thanks!

Aug. 03 2009 02:25 PM
Alison from Upper West Side

For me, Rinde Eckert's - And God Created Great Whales - is unsurpassed. Especially in the category of art inspired by Moby Dick. Would love to have him perform this work on WNYC - it would be great in the Greene Space!

Aug. 03 2009 02:24 PM
Freddy Jenkins

Mastodon, the metal band, recorded an album of "Moby-Dick" inspired song cycle "Leviathan"--and 1 of the guys did read the book!
It's an amazing album!

Aug. 03 2009 02:20 PM
mozo from nyc

The book, "Moby Dick" is one of those somewhat ingenuous literary works in that:

1) It's long and boring. Literary castor oil.

2) Looks good on your bookshelf.

3) Speaks well of your appreciation of literature especially if your are trying to impress any other literary snobs who haven't read it. Seeing the movie(s) ain't the same as reading the book.

For the record, the Zep song "Moby Dick" is just as long and boring boring as the novel.

How many of these musicians have actually read the book and not seen the movie(s)?

Aug. 03 2009 02:17 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.