Music is a universal language.
This is a phrase we have heard just about everywhere, but sometimes we have to pause and ponder. When we say universal, does it mean that our animal friends enjoy music as well? And if so do they compose too? Or is it just universal to us? Of course, we hardly expect our cat Tubby to pluck the cello strings, but there have been some very interesting things going on around the world that have put biomusicologists on some sleepless overtime work. And today we find out why.
The Science Behind Musical Intuition In Animals
There is a very interesting debate going on where music & animals are concerned. On one side, bird chirping is said to be merely a biological function. Like the rooster signaling sunrise. The familiar “cock-a-doodle-do” happens every single day with the exact same intonation, pitch & volume. Meaning that it’s just something that happens naturally, genetically embed in every rooster, without the bird coming up with the melody. But then we come to the more complicated world of bird chirping & whale songs and we start to ponder a very interesting thought: If animals compose their music, and if so could it be possible they are actually entertaining themselves with music.
Just like us.
Watching Disco the Hip Hop Parakeet, we know at least that some animals can be incited into learning our musical language. But does the parakeet itself view it singing, our are its actions merely to please its audience?
(via user Disco the Parakeet)
But while music evokes certain feelings & actions in us, it can bring about similar reactions in our animal friends as well.
A New Study Of Music
Ethnomusicology as a term refers to the study of music across different cultures & times. A little different from Zoomusicology, coined by Dario Martinelli, which studies musical trends where animals are concerned. People who oppose this idea point out that music is but a human interpretation: Bird chirping might be music to some people, but just a pleasant sound to others. But as a comeback, the fact that it sounds pleasant in the first place earns it something of a “right” to be called music. Going back to the basal definitions of music, where music is a string of sounds that can evoke feelings or reactions within listeners.
Studying it for a few years, zoomusicologists have identified particular patterns in how animals “enjoy” music. As a species, we humans tend to be more in tune towards auditory ranges that we can perceive with our hearing. The clearer the better. Naturally, music that we can replicate with our voices & our instruments. Meaning that in any musical piece, if the tone, tempo, rhythm & pitch is familiar to the species, there is a possibility that animals actually enjoy music as well. In humans, language & music have become two very separate things, with the former a prime mode of communication while the latter, entertainment. But in the animal world, these two seem to be indistinguishable.
Cats purr only to communicate affection with humans: They never do it to each other. Composers have been attempting to make musical masterpieces for the pets ever since the trend started off. A famous example is probably Music For Cats, created by cellist Davis Teie in collaboration with Charles T. Snowdon, as a pioneering contribution to the world of music. For cats.