December 06, 2004

Language, music, and animals. Huzzah!

"In the same way our scales derive from human utterances, a cat's idea of a good tune would derive from yowls and meows".

  • "synchronized chimpanzee hooting" I knew they were spying on us.
  • no bird Mozart? not sure about that.
  • Interesting find. Here's the cited article by Hauser and McDermott. (Don't know how long this will remain readable by non-subscribers.) Empirically, I once had a little cat who would howl vigorously whenever I'd accompany a flutist or vocalist. (Watching him interact with the flute always amused me. He'd get right up in the flutist's face to investigate the strange sound, then back off to emit of his milk-curdling howls.) Practicing bluegrass banjo of all things, however, I would attract cats from all over the house. Yowls and meows, indeed.
  • no bird Mozart? not sure about that. Really. I totally thought that was a cheep shot. /rim shot Ok, ok, don't get your feathers ruffled. /gong
  • I will not post the Hatebeak link here.
  • Bring on the music of the spheres. And whale's songs. I am a being of this world, and this is my music. That, and The Mothers of Invention
  • I once had a cat that was enraged by people dancing. If you danced around the living room she would twitch her tail, narrow her eyes, then go berzerk! She'd ankle tackle you, then bite you as hard as she could. She'd leave bruises through jeans. I feel she must have had strong religious views on the sinfulness of dancing. Or something.
  • And here's the cited article by Schwartz, Howe, and Purves. The Journal of Neuroscience being less anal about its archives than the Nature Publishing Group.
  • Or maybe she just hated Bauhaus.
  • A Southern Baptist cat. Or maybe a Calvinist.
  • Mothers use musical speech to "regulate infants' emotional states," Myself, and others with parrots and their ilk, use the same melody-voice to talk to them. They prefer such voices. In fact, I use a similar pattern of voice for the dog, to keep him docile. He responds beautifully by throwing his hundred pound German Shepherd body to the floor and rolls over for mommy to rub his tummy. With regard to the musical scale, I used to have a little house wren that nested each spring in my garden and her song was a perfect do-ra-mi etc. I'm not really convinced that critters' responses and tunes and our concept of melody, can be so easily pronounced as discrete. /although I admit that the dog has a long way to go with his own tunes. He's trying hard, though, to 'sing for mommy'.
  • Cat Dancing. /my second cat comment in 3 minutes
  • My first cat was an orange stripey guy named Cecil. I was 12, so of course my parents didn't believe it when I told them that Cecil liked Duke Ellington. Imagine their surprise when we tested it out. Operas by Rossini, The Ramones, Bach unaccompanied cello sonatas, Beethoven symphonies, Elvis Costello, even Jellyroll Morton didn't work. But put on Duke Ellington and he'd come running from wherever he was in the house and sprawl between the speakers. Maybe the Duke kept a cageful of birdies in the recording studio.
  • Shiny: a cat with excellent musical taste!
  • Blue, indeed he was. He also liked to sit in your lap, create a horrible stenchey cat food fart, then jump down to the floor while lashing his tail and glaring at you. His favorite victims were visitors and dinner guests. Silly little booger.
  • my birds react to music differently. one dances, while the other squawks along. the squawker is particularly fond of aaron copeland.
  • My wife had a cat that would bite her mother whenever my mother-in-law sung.
  • I used to have a little dog named Molly who would try to sing along whenever I played piano. I'd go to practice, and she'd sit under the spinet by my feet and howl (and howl and howl). I thought it was really funny, but it drove my parents crazy.
  • When I was in my teens, owned a beagle that would howl vigorously whenever anyone played the violin. The higher frequencies in particular seemed to cause him soem distress, so I would put him outdoors at such times. And my little sisters would sneak him back in in hopes of having their practioce times curtailed - evil sisters! Birds usually love music -- to the birdy mind, when the rest of the flock is making noise, then it's safe to draw attention to yourself by singing since it means no hawks or other predators are nearby. With respect to birds and music, one caution: the body of a bird is little more than a connected series of air-sacs. It's recently been discovered that low-frequency sound can collapse human lungs, so it seems reasonable to suppose birds, too, might be very susceptible to damage if too near a bass-speaker. As yet, I have seen no reports of this but wouldn't be at all surprised to see some in future.