Dolphin Valentine Details

For more about the recording click here
Part of the raw Dolphin sounds should be playing. (Click the black triangle of the player at left to start the sound, and on the black square to stop the recording.)
For more on the raw sound file click here
© 2000 Sirius Institute
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The Dolphin Valentine recording demonstrates a musical communication interface for human-dolphin communication. This is the first dolphin-created music.

The dolphins at the Hyatt Regency Waikaloa [now the Hilton Waikaloa] were recorded on Valentine's Day 1992. Their sounds were processed using the "Song Swimmer" interface developed by the Sirius Institute.

A MIDI [Musical Industry Digital Interface] pitch tracker tracked the pitch of the dolphin whistles and generated a MIDI data file with pitch and pitch-bend data. A synthesizer played the whistle pitch profiles with a timbre called "Spirit".

In this case, the 6 dolphins at the Hyatt were simply recorded. In future work, we intend to have human-dolphin concerts, where the dolphins will create music interactively using the Song Swimmer with human musicians.

Copies of Dolphin Valentine are available from

The dolphin sounds correspond more closely to a Harrison/Lucy Scale tuning [a tuning system based on "pi" ] more closely than to standard equal-temperment or other tunings. This analysis will yield further insights into the dolphin acoustic communication systems.  We feel that analysis of the dolphin sounds using Lucy scale techniques will permit a decoding of their language.

The Song Swimmer interface is the beginning of an interface that will permit the dolphins to operate computers. I honor Frank Bollinger who in discussions, came up with the original idea of using pitch converters for this purpose, Tony Selvage for doing the original DAT recording of the dolphin sounds, and to Dr. Rae Stone and the people and dolphins of the Waikaloa's Dolphin Quest for their assistance and Aloha.


The raw sound file you heard consists of a background chatter of snapping shrimp, overlayed with rather faint Bottlenosed Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) sounds (click trains, whistles, creaks, buzzes, etc.).

Sound files here are MP3 compressed using 16KHz, mono, 24 Kbps bit rate from a cassette recording with a maximum frequency response of 10 KHz that was sampled at 22,500KHz using 16 bit samples.

Toward the end of the piece, you will hear some MIDI Synthesizer tones with the timbre "Spirit" with the pitch determined by the pitch of the dolphin whistles. One of the interesting side-effeccts of this sound-to-MIDI conversion is that the snapping shrimp sounds are eliminated.

Since clicks approximate Dirac Delta Functions, which have all frequencies at equal power, clicks thus have zero pitch, and are eliminated by any pitch tracking process. This is true as well for dolphin clicks. Despite this, creaks, buzzes and slow click trains were tracked, and give rise to the low, loud booms heard on the MIDI part of the tape.  The majority of the whistles were tracked, at least for part of their trajectories.

Welcome to a new form of music, where the creators are another species.  We have played this MIDI tape to many musicians and they hear it as music, so, by observational definition, it is music.

The Sirius Institute, based on the island of Hawai'I, is dedicated to the creation of human/dolphin co-creative habitats where dolphins and people can learn from each other.  We intend to have full, objective, symbolic communication between people and dolphins.  We are exploring many aspects of human/dolphin interaction such as underwater birth with dolphins, dolphin sound healing or restoration.


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Last updated January 25, 2000