Music Whale – A Musician and His Whale Skeleton

While jogging on a Wellfleet, Massachusetts beach after work one day in 1971, a young music teacher stumbled upon the partially buried skeletal remains of a long-finned pilot whale.  

He collected all the bones and discovered that the bones, played like a xylophone, could be used to teach, compose, and perform music. His discovery shaped his musical pursuits and inspired many students and adults along the way.

In 2019, that music teacher, Dr. Paul Berliner, contacted Keith Rittmaster of the NC Maritime Museum and Bonehenge Whale Center expressing interest in creating a permanent display of the whale’s rearticulated 14’ skeleton. That project was completed and installed in a Durham, NC studio on March 6, 2021.

The “Music Whale” installation team of (L to R) Paul Berliner, Frank Konhaus, Ellen Cassilly, Louise Mentjes, James Baxter, and Keith Rittmaster
The “Music Whale” installation team of (L to R) Paul Berliner, Frank Konhaus, Ellen Cassilly, Louise Mentjes, James Baxter, and Keith Rittmaster

The story is featured in the Fall 2021 issue of Maritimes, the official publication of the Friends of the Maritime Museum. It is also the subject of a fun 6 minute video montage set to music that can be viewed below.