HOSTS- Jeremy Burns, Matthew Scott Phillips


TYPE- Special Topics




BUMPER MUSIC- "Zero Meowz"  (Area 47 Music)

ANNOUNCER- Mike Cunliffe


Do animals appreciate music? Do they create their own music? Could they benefit from exposure to the right kind of music? The field of zoomusicology attempts to address some of these questions. In this episode, we will revisit some scientific studies involving primates, pets and some of our underwater friends. It's gonna be a wild time!


-In 2013 a study revealed in the Behavioral Processes Journal showed that fish can tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky. Kazutaka Shinozuka, a researcher at Keio University, Japan, and his team trained one group of fish by playing different Bach pieces as they fed on a food filled ball. By this method, they were trained to eat when they heard Bach. In the same setting, when they played Stravinsky, the fish would not eat.


-In another experiment they would play “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” (Bach) when the fish were at one side of the tank and "The Right Of Spring" (Stravinsky) when they were on the other side. In the middle, they had silence. After measuring and calculating time spent on both sides they were able to conclude that the fish didn’t appear to have a preference.


-It has been documented, especially among the humpback whales, that the males use their “whale song” to signal their virility. They also use other sounds such as "clicks" for echolocation. The more complex whale songs are often used for mating purposes. But year round they use whistles, clicks, grunts, barks, snorts and calls for different communication purposes.


-The humpback and blue whale songs have been structurally analyzed and can be broken down into phrases, sub phrases and the repetitions thereof, much like our own music. They will repeat a certain phrase, containing a collection of sub phrases, for about 4 minutes. This is referred to as a theme. A collection of these, which we call a song, can last up the 30 minutes. Then they will repeat it for hours, sometimes days, at a time. Whales in the surrounding area will sing the same songs with little variation. These songs will change and evolve over time.


-Over the past 50 years scientists have noticed a progressive drop in frequency from the blue whale songs. Robert Dziak, lead researcher for a study out of Oregon State university poses one theory that due to the ever growing and permeating sounds of the commercial fishing industry, whales are adapting to a different channel “with less static”.


-Dolphins and humans have had a special relationship over the past several decades. Many studies, based on brain mass to body mass ratios as well as cognitive function, suggest the dolphin brain to be closer to ours than most others in the animal kingdom.


-In July of 2022 a study was published in the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science from researchers out of the University of Padova in Legnaro, Italy. They found that compared to other things dolphins were known to respond to (such as recordings of falling rain or natural environments on video walls) classical music from Bach, Beethoven, Saint-Saens and Debussy, to name a few, resulted in a greater number of “social affiliative behaviors”. These behaviors include swimming in sync with each other for longer periods than average, gently touching each other and showing more interest in each other. 8 dolphins were studied (before, during and after) each 20 minute session of exposure to these stimuli for a 7 day period. Dr. Cecile Guerineau suggests that because of the way dolphins vocalize, they may have an understanding of rhythm.


-In a 2012 study, published by Colorado State University in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 117 shelter dogs were monitored for activity levels such as vocalizations and body movement. They found that most of the dogs slept better and longer to the sounds of classical music compared to heavy metal, which had the tendency to induce body shaking and other signs of nervousness.


 -A newer study out of the University of Glasgow, Scotland for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was released in 2017. Shelter dogs were exposed, for 6 hours at a time, to several different genres of music (classical, soft rock, reggae, pop and Motown). During these intervals, they would measure stress indicators such as heart rate, cortisol levels and anxiety based behaviors and movements. Reggae and soft rock proved to be the most relaxing to the dogs. Motown was the least relaxing. In the former study, on the 7th day of classical music, the dogs began to return to normal behavior leading the researchers of the latter study to wonder if they were simply getting habituated, or bored, with that genre.


-University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist, Charles Snowdon, University of Maryland composer, David Teie and PhD student at SUNY-Binghamton, Meredith Savage have developed a compositional style based on the frequencies and tempos that cats normally communicate on. After David Teie wrote a few compositions, Snowdon and Savage brought it to 47 different homes where cats were present. They played two selections of classical music and two of Teie’s compositions. When presented with the latter, that cats were more likely to approach, and in some cases rub up against, the speaker. This seemed to affect older and younger cats more so than the middle age kitty crew. This study was published in 2015 in the journal of Applied Animal Behavioral Science.


-These compositions feature either a purring sample or the synthetic generation thereof and rhythmic sounds that are similar to cleaning patterns such as licking or scratching. In addition, Teie used cello sounds, many of them musical, some sweeping in pitch like a meow. You can hear this on the album, “Music For Cats Album One" by David Teie.


-Cows seem to have a fascination with music. Florida diary farmer and trombonist Ed Henderson says, “The cows have an ability to understand what’s threatening and what’s pleasing. And music is definitely pleasing to them”.


-In 2001, a research group at the University of Leicester, in the UK, led by Dr. Adrian North and Liam MacKenzie, played a number of different genres and tempos for cows while in the milking sheds. The study involved over 1000 cows. Groups of these cows were exposed to fast music, slow music or no music from 5a to 5p during a 9 week study. Those that were exposed to slow calming music were producing 3% more milk per day compared to the others. Their theory is that cows have an increased yields with lower stress levels and that music is aiding in this. The farmers seem to agree.


-The tamarin monkeys and the marmosets have been used in previous studies to determine primate responses to the various aspects of music. In a 2006 study run by Josh McDermott and Marc D. Hauser, both participating species consisted of primates born and raised in a lab with no music exposure. Using white noise at 60db vs 90db they were able to determine that the monkeys preferred 60db, the more quiet of the two. When it came to tempo, they seemed to prefer the slower lullabies over techno music. This applied to the actual music and also to a simple metronome, where both species seemed to prefer 60 bpm over 400bpm. They didn’t seem to show any interest in consonance vs dissonance, unlike we humans. Also unlike we humans, they seemed to prefer silence even over the most relaxing of lullabies. McDermott and Hauser wonder if this has to do with those also being associated with stressful events in nature, such as storms, altercations or the fleeing from predators. The alert cries of both the marmoset and the tamarin involve short broadband bursts repeated at high rates. The rhythms are often consistent in tempo.


-Andrea Ravignani and his colleagues at the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics studied several recordings of white handed gibbons whopping in their natural environments. They noticed very constant rhythm patterns within these whoops. They also noticed that the male and the female monkeys would call back and forth and eventually sync up their calls with impressive precision, as if they are whooping together.


“7 Scientific Studies About How Animals React To Music”

by Meredith Danko on MentalFloss.com


“Do Goldfish Prefer Bach or Stravinsky”

by Douglas Main on LiveScience.com


“Is Music An Exclusively Human Thing? A New Study Says No”

by Gabe O’Connor and Christopher Intagliata on NPR.org:


“Nine Unexpected Effects of Music on Animals”

by Alexander McNamara on ScienceFocus.com


“The Ocean Is So Noisy, Whales Are Starting To Talk On A New Frequency”

by Avery Thompson on PopularMechanics.com