For guitar and ukulele players, music brings us happiness. But pet owners may ask themselves, do pets like music as much as we do? While conventional wisdom and civic sense would argue that music is ideally a human constructed phenomenon and that it is only humans who hold the capacity to understand and enjoy it, multiple studies have now elucidated how animals too share the capacity for music. It isn’t necessarily genre specific. But is rather 'species-specific’.
What is species specific music?
The study combining musicology and zoology is known as Zoomusicology. It entails the study of sound-rhythm perception and recognition in animals. Animals hold the capacity to identify different rhythms and often similarities in music too. Different kinds of music have different effects on animals.
Boston University, in a conducted research, have put forth that both whales and birds enjoy music in a similar pattern as humans do. When a pod of whales sing, they sing in a A-B-A format, which is beginning with a composition, switching in between and going back to the old beginning composition. This format has been used by music bands for quite a long time. Animals also happen to perceive the laws of harmonics.
How is that possible?
Many scientists argue that this mutual understanding emerges from whatever genetic overlap that we might have with animals. It seems to be universal, against how we’d earlier argue that music is innately human.
So which animal enjoys what kind of music?
Multiple observations and studies have shown that while music in a broader sense seem to influence multiple other species, each behaved differently to the different kinds of music introduced to them.
Cats are one of the species that are quite indifferent to human music. Likely because our sounds frequencies and tempos are on different levels. But scientists and musicians together have been able to make music at the very level that cats communicate in, in terms of frequency. Interestingly, the cats seemed to portray positive behavior on listening to the music.
Tamarin monkeys too seem to respond to music made at their frequency and pitch of call. They appeared to be much more relaxed and also ate more under the influence of music.
This research spanning over nine weeks with different kinds of music and their effects on cows, slow music calmed the cows down, reducing stress while fast paced music impacted the production of milk negatively. Less stressed cows yielded three percent more milk.
The animal that happens to be more musically inclined are elephants. An experiment with instruments in Thailand pointed out that elephants had better tempo control over large drums than humans did. In fact much more stable too!
A 2013 study observed that goldfish could be trained to distinguish between different music pieces composed by different composers. The study revealed that fish could make out the differences between the pitch and timbre of the different pieces that they were made to hear. Maybe add a few extra strums for Nemo when you're practicing your guitar. Taking care of your goldfish just got easier!
Birds, like humans and whales, appear to be able to create music. Female white-tailed sparrows responded to music in a similar way as human species do- the amygdala in the brain lights up. But in the case of female sparrows, this happened only on listening to the male sparrows sing and this behavior was not reciprocal.
Which animals respond to the sound of guitar?
Kenneled dogs appeared to have reduced stress when they were made to hear classical music and also music that originated in strings or acoustic like guitars and ukuleles. Music pieces with rhythmic strumming seemed to have a calming effect on dogs even within domestic households.
Dogs appeared to respond emotionally to human music. Although this doesn’t mean that animals or in this case specifically dogs, can understand the relationship between key and pitch well. They can recognize a set or sequence of notes but the moment the key is changed, they are unable to recognize it.
The question that seems to remain as a string argument in both the disciplines is that how far are humans accurately able to understand and interpret animal behavior to music? This question arises because the kind of music these animals responded to were limited to their communication frequency and were fairly indifferent to the kind of music that humans enjoyed, apart from a handful of cases.
With an increasing concern for domesticated animals and pets and how we keep them, music has also appeared to take an important part in the relationship as relative studies do show that slow music does have a relaxing effect on animals. So, next time you're picking up your instrument do a little practicing, keep your furry friend in mind, because pets do like music!