Sounds of the Deep


Langston Hughes (1901–1967)
The First Book of the West Indies
Illustrations by Robert Bruce (1911–1980)
New York: Franklin Watts, 1956
The Morgan Library & Museum, the Carter Burden Collection of American Literature; PML 181703

Courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. (p) 1955. Used by permission.


Sandy Campbell: In 1955, Hughes recorded an album for children based on his book The First Book of Rhythms. He was deeply interested in and curious about different sounds. In this clip, he has gathered sounds of the sea, from the sound of the Pacific off the coast of California to sounds of underwater creatures recorded at a depth of two thousand fathoms.

Langston Hughes: This is the sound of the Pacific off the California coast.

And here are the noises that some fish make below the surface of the sea. This is a toad fish.

Here are croakers.

And these are spot fish in a tank.

And these are the unknown sounds one hears 200 miles out in the Pacific and 2000 fathoms down in the depths of the sea.

It is only with the aid of special sound recording instruments that we can hear the sounds from the depths of the sea. But all of us who live near the sea can listen to the majestic roar of the waves on its surface.

And we can think how each grain of sand on the beach and the rhythms of each shell in the sea are molded and shaped by the waves and the tides.