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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

FYI--Seeking Traditional/Folkloric Recordings for Review and Research

I'm already looking at 2011 and what I seek regional music of France (and Corsica), Italy, Spain, Finland, Norway, and the Americas (especially Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina). I encourage labels that release this regional music to contact me by e-mail and then we'll go from there.

I look forward to exploring this music.

By the way, I'm always interested in acoustic music from Mali, Senegal, and Cuba.


Sunday, November 14, 2010


I found the Film Movement series movie, The Wind Journeys at my local library.  Directed by Colombian Ciro Guerra and featuring accordionist Marciano Martinez, a road flick marries music exploration. While the Colombian rural music, vallenata takes centerstage, other regional musical traditions appear in the movie.  Highly Recommended. (Especially for the students who enrolled in my Songs of the Americas course).