Thursday, December 10, 2009

Music for Monkeys

"When David Teie, a cellist with the National Symphony Orchestra, wanted to test his ideas about where our emotional response to music originates, he decided to try them out on monkeys. He figured that if his theories were right — namely, that our response to the "emotional vocalizations," pulses and heartbeats that we first hear in the womb establishes our sense of music — then he should "be able to write music for another species that's effective for that species.""  Source 

He went on to write music that was similar to the calls of tamarin monkey--calls given in friendly situations.  He found that the monkeys seemed to be soothed by the music, based on their behavior--more feeding, and drinking (sounds like a party).   He's gone on to write music for other species, including cats and mustached bats. 

Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?  I mean, making a real attempt to write music for another species--music they might actually enjoy.  I can understand doing it for cats--big money there.  But for bats?

In the 1960, Zoologist Roger Paine discovered that whales sing like birds, although the songs are much slower and longer.  This was astonishing news, and people found the songs to be hauntingly beautiful.  A symphony was written incorporating the whale recordings: "And God Created Great Whales," by Alan Hovhaness.  Popular songs did so as well (Joni Mitchell?).

Back some 20 or so years ago, there was an uproar about talking to your plants, so they would grow better.  And playing music for them.  Just a few years ago, there was a hype about turning your baby into Einstein by playing classical music to his crib.  It was proven not to work. 

That music hype reminds me of the pest-control folklore I've discussed before, like wolf pee or deer whistles on your car.   But Teie's work sounds like a real scientific attempt to understand the minds of other species.

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