Archive for August 20th, 2014

August 20, 2014


dancing cockatoo

Snowball (hatched c. 1996) is a male Eleonora Cockatoo, noted as being the first non-human animal conclusively demonstrated to be capable of beat induction— perceiving music and synchronizing body movements to the beat (i.e., dancing).

Snowball’s abilities first became apparent after being acquired from a bird show at the age of six by his previous owner. He was observed bobbing his head in time to the Backstreet Boys song, ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).’ The owner and his children encouraged this behavior and observed him developing rhythmic foot-lifting gestures, perhaps in imitation of his human companions’ arm-lifting gestures.

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August 20, 2014

Biomusicological Entrainment


Entrainment [en-treyn-muhnt] in the biomusicological [bahy-oh-myoo-zi-kol-loj-i-kuhl] sense refers to the synchronization of organisms to an external rhythm, usually produced by other organisms with whom they interact socially. Examples include firefly flashing, mosquito wing clapping, as well as human music and dance such as foot tapping.

Beat induction is the process in which a regular isochronous pulse is activated while one listens to music (i.e. the beat to which one would tap one’s foot). It was thought that the cognitive mechanism that allows us to infer a beat from a sound pattern, and to synchronize or dance to it, was uniquely human. No other primate can dance or collaboratively clap to the beat of the music. Humans know when to start, when to stop, when to speed up or to slow down, in synchronizing with their fellow dancers or musicians. Although apes do not appear to display beat induction, some parrots do. The most famous example, Snowball was shown to display genuine dance, including changing his movements to a change in tempo in a 2009 study.

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August 20, 2014


music for monkeys by Himi Kozue

Zoomusicology [zoh-uh-myoo-zi-kol-uh-jee] is a field of musicology and zoology or more specifically, zoosemiotics (animal communication). It is the study of the music of non-human animals, or rather the musical aspects of sound or communication produced and received by animals, and is related to ethnomusicology (the study of human music). Italian musicologist and semiotician Dario Martinelli describes the subject of as the ‘aesthetic use of sound communication among animals.’

Musicologist Marcello Sorce Keller attributes musical qualities to animal sounds, specifically whales’ and birds’ songs, by stating that regional variations can be found that resemble cultural traits in human music. He advocates for a combined study of zoomusicology and ethnomusicology with the remark that he ‘would like to suggest that musical scholarship excluding non-human animals cannot ultimately describe ‘how musical is man.”

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August 20, 2014

Soundscape Conservation

the great animal orchestra

Soundscape ecology is the study of sound within a landscape and its effect on organisms. The discipline of conservation biology has traditionally been concerned with the preservation of biodiversity and the habitats that organisms are dependent upon. However, soundscape ecology encourages biologists to consider natural soundscapes as resources worthy of conservation efforts. Unaltered soundscapes have value for wildlife as demonstrated by the numerous negative effects of anthropogenic (human created) noise on various species.

Organisms that use acoustic cues generated by their prey may be particularly impacted by human-altered soundscapes. In this situation, the (unintentional) senders of the acoustic signals will have no incentive to compensate for masking imposed by anthropogenic sound. In addition, natural soundscapes can have benefits for human wellbeing and may help generate a distinct sense of place, connecting people to the environment and providing unique aesthetic experiences. Because of the various values inherent in natural soundscapes, they may be considered ecosystem services that are provisioned by intact, functioning ecosystems.