Saturday, November 20, 2010

Essay: Animala Musica

Did you know that animals enjoy human music? Yes, I realize that you probably already know that various creatures enjoy their own music.  Wolves and coyotes enjoy howling, whales sing their songs, and we can add crickets, bees, birds, and frogs to this list.

I often wondered about a connection between human musical expression and the animals themselves.  Then I started observing birds and squirrels, especially around various types of music.  For instance, when I lived in my last apartment in Seattle, I befriended a family of squirrels.  These squirrels would find delight in listening to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #3. At first, I thought hmmm, what a coincidence.  But every time I played that piece of music on my CD/cassette player, the squirrels would run back and forth on the roof and even let out gleeful cries, if no better words to describe the experience.

They also like traditional guitar music from the Dominican Republic. The music matched the energy of the squirrels.  The crows didn't go for Rachmaninoff, but they would sit in the trees listening to bagpipe recordings. But neither the squirrels or the crows enjoyed an atonal piece of music by Maurice Ravel (thankfully Ravel's only piece like that).  When I played that musical piece three times, the crows and squirrels knocked over the water dish in the backyard and the crows actually dive bombed the house.  Okay, already, I get the message.

The creatures probably enjoy music I don't enjoy.  Such is life, but the fact that creatures are responding to music at all, leads me to wonder if humans actually are more evolved than the other creatures. Not long ago, we learned that crows make and use tools, something we thought only primates did. It turns out that squirrels possess great intelligence, though you probably just see them scavaging in your garbage can and think of them as dumpster divers.

So next time you play some tunes, either a recording or live, watch the animals and observe how they respond.  Personally, I find this animal-music connection fascinating.


  1. Poetry does something similar, but then it's the musicality in poetry that especially appeals to me. I remember reading years ago that music can change a person's mood in two minutes or less, so what you say makes sense. Isn't it great, too, that animals and birds provide us with music? I especially love the musical cry of a whale - Mary Sayler, The Poetry Editor website and blog

  2. Thanks Mary for your comment on poetry and music. I know that listening to some samba music right now would change my mood so I think that's what I'll do.

    Funny, that you mention whales since I've experienced synchronicity with whales in the past two weeks. Whales represent music in so many ways.