A few years back, David Rothenberg (a musician/philosopher turned researcher) wondered why birds sing. Yes, they sing for survival, mating, and defending of territory, but did they also sing for pleasure? Rothenberg leaned towards yes. More recently, while reading Elena Mannes book The Power of Music--Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song), I learned that Thai elephants can play music and that cockatoos among other creatures can synchronize to the rhythms of human made music. In fact, I have felt engrossed with Mannes' book, while experiencing goosebumps at time.
Often the hard scientists, the biologists and ornithologists claim that we anthropomorphize when we say that birds or animals enjoy music and find it pleasurable. "No," they say, "only humans have that capacity." Basically, to me, these scientists promote this idea that humans stand at the top of all creation and no creatures has more intelligence or abilities than humans. Humans after all, have rational thought. Yes, like that's done us a lot of good. When in fact, it is this rational and critical thought that leads us to feel a great deal of stress. It's so stressful holding the world together and keeping all the non-humans in balance in aligned with human needs.
The other argument is that humans only listen and play music for pleasure or are the only earth creature that has this unique ability. Birds only sing to court other birds, to mate, to protect their nest and to defend territory. They also sing for survival. Are these scientists telling us that humans don't sing to attract mates, for survival, to spread messages or other reasons than pure pleasure?
Then why do I recall rock musicians writing songs so that they could get laid? Isn't that about attracting mates? And what about those medieval troubadours and court musicians who composed and sang songs to attract unrequited lovers? Some were even successful, until the kings found out. And are these scientists proposing that early humans before they had language, did not sing certain songs to warn the others about predators or to defend territory? I'm just not buying that they didn't sing for those reasons.
The Thai Elephant Orchestra, http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=5UMJ8qfw-4E&feature=endscreen
BBC documentary Why Birds Sing (6 parts), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_cqJsdnOrg
Through a Dog's Ear (CBS Early Show), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zytCL33Mf2Q
Zebra Finches playing rock guitar, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZQ4VmicDeM
Dancing Cockatoo, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7IZmRnAo6s