Music Soothes Animals


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) The whole universe throbs with melody and every plant and animal reacts to it.
I tell all the pregnant women I know to listen to classical music because I know the baby inside will grow healthier and more intelligent listening to it. Even fish do. Professor Papoutsoglo of the Agricultural University of Athens and his team reared carp fish in constant darkness. They found that darkness stunted the fish’s growth, but when the carp were exposed to 30 minutes or more of Mozart’s "Eine Kleine Nacht Musik," they grew at more normal rates, improved their livers and had reduced stress. Ava Chase of the Rowland Institute at Harvard, has even shown that carp can tell the difference between baroque music and jazz, pressing a button with their snouts to indicate which they prefer.

All mammals sing. Humpback whales produce hauntingly beautiful songs, using the same musical concepts of human music - similar rhythms, phrase lengths, and song structure.  They combine phrases lasting about 15 seconds into themes of about 2 minutes. Phrase endings correspond rhythmically, like rhymes in our lyrics. Several themes then go to make up a song of perhaps 12 minutes in length, which may be sung over and over.

Just as humans have different musical traditions, different groups of whales have different dialects, and one can influence the tastes of another. A whale pod will abandon its own tunes for the new sounds of another group. When a new whale comes to join a group it brings its own song, and instead of changing its song, the rest of the pod changes their song to the new whale’s song! Each year they change their song, but all the whales in one ocean sing the same new song, like the latest number one hit. New syllables appear constantly to replace old ones and the new syllables soon spread worldwide.

Whales sing in key mixing percussive and pure tones in the same ratio as Western symphonic music. They also follow the device of human songsters, the so-called A-B-A form, in which a theme is stated, then elaborated on, and then returned to in modified form.

 Jim Nollman,/founder of Interspecies Communication, Inc. cut a CD titled "Orca's Greatest Hits" where he captures orca whale songs off Vancouver Island. In Mexico, he has played a flute while a tom turkey did a flamenco dance. In Death Valley, he has thumped drums with kangaroo rats. In eastern California, he accompanied the singing of a wolf pack on a Japanese bamboo flute. According to him, animals can be exacting critics. When he was working with wolves, if he got out of pitch, on any note of that scale, they stopped singing.

Researchers Timothy Holy and Zhongsheng Guo have discovered that mice emit high-frequency sounds that, when amplified, sound like bird songs. Even cockroaches sing like birds.

 The Great Ape Trust in Iowa, is engaged in an ongoing project to explore the musical tastes and abilities of bonobos. In a music session the bonobos get a choice of instruments including the xylophone, tambourine, harmonica and maracas, but typically focus on one throughout the session and stay in tune with the human band. Researchers believe that the origins of musical instrumentation may be found in their behaviour in the wild, where they regularly drum on resonant objects, such as the buttresses of trees. Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser has found that tamarin and marmoset monkeys have the ability to discriminate between different types of music even recognizing different composers. Like whales, chimpanzees groups have distinct cultural practices of drumming and vocalizing. Chimpanzees tested by the Primate Foundation of Arizona listened to different kinds of music ranging from Pavarotti to jazz and then mixed it to create their own music.  According to Thomas Geissmann, in his book "Gibbon Songs and Human Music from an Evolutionary Perspective” ,all species of gibbons produce elaborate, sex-specific songs. Mated pairs combine their songs in a rigid pattern to produce coordinated duets. The female song consists of a loud phrase, the great call comprising between 6-100 notes. This call is introduced by a simple series of notes termed the introductory sequence; it is produced only once in a song bout. Thereafter, great calls are produced with an interval of 2 minutes. In the intervals come the interlude sequences consisting of shorter, variable phrases. Male gibbons join in as the duet proceeds and start with single, simple notes, moving to increasingly complex phrases, reaching the fully developed form only after several minutes of singing .

Seal songs, according to Tecumseh Fitch, a expert in bioaccoustics at the University of St Andrews  UK comprise complex trills, clicks, rasps, grunts and a bell-like tone.  So do the distinctive courtship syllables of Male Mexican Freetail Bats. The singing frog that lives beside rivers in China's Anhui Province produces an ultrasonic croak, using upward and downward sweeps of notes in a warbling melody.

Music has the power to affect all beings physically and emotionally.
Alianna Boone who has produced a CD "Harp Music to Soothe the Savage Beast." conducted studies on music’s effect on animals. Performing for hospitalized canines at a Florida veterinary clinic , she found that the sessions immediately began to lower heart rate, anxiety, and respiration.
Dogs aren’t the only animals benefiting from the good vibrations. Cassie, a cow, lives at the Maple Farm Sanctuary in Massachusetts. She arrived there after jumping a high fence to escape from a slaughter house. She still demonstrates anxiety-related behavior. One day a volunteer found her snorting and stomping. He decided to try calming her by playing a CD of harp songs. Within 20 minutes, he found the bovine dozed off. A CD called "Harp of Hope: Animal Therapy Edition," was originally recorded for people but the producer, Schneider, decided to release an animal edition after owners reported it helped their arthritic dogs fall asleep and calmed  agitated cats.

 In 2001, two British scholars introduced different musical styles to 1,000 dairy cows.  From 5 a.m. until 5 p.m., they listened to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts.” Milk yield increased by three percent.

In another instance at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, a gorilla group sat through Sue Raimond’s harp performance appreciatively. The youngest, Little Joe, even blew her a kiss before falling asleep.

People aren't the only ones who have opinions about the music they like; animals do too. Two staff members at the Bronx Zoo decided to test whether animals are affected by music by playing different kinds of music to different species in their care.
Here's what they found:
• Though initially wary the elephants soon gathered round and began flapping their ears in time to ragtime music, occasionally raising their trunks to trumpet a note or two.
• The lions absolutely loved it. One even stood on his hind legs and punched the air with his front paws in time to the music.
• While listening to "Get a Hoop and Roll it Away" a tiger acted exactly like a happy housecat, rolling on his back with an expression of pure ecstasy. When the music stopped he growled and walked away.
• The camels responded with obvious pleasure to the upbeat tune "The Campbells Are Coming" but one literally wept at the sound of a sad ballad, tears streaming down his nose during the entire time it played.
Queens University in England’s study from its School of Psychology has demonstrated that dogs exposed to classical music are calmer than those exposed to rock or heavy metal who get agitated, bark more and pace restlessly.
Listen closely to nature and you will hear rhythms strikingly similar to those found in human music.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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