A man by the name of Igor Stravinsky once said, “My music is best understood by children and animals.” There are quite a lot of people in this world who adopt pets because they are all alone in their homes and they want someone to keep them company. But they also do realize that when they are not at home, their pet will end up feeling lonely. Theories of music evolution agree that human music has an effective influence on listeners. So, in order to keep their pets entertained, they turn on the TV or leave the radio or music system on all day while they go out. It is a very nice thought on their part but funnily, it does not really serve any purpose. Animals are not very much affected by the music that we humans listen to.
Animals do not have the same tastes in music as their human counterparts. In fact, different animals like different kinds of music. To understand the basis of their likes and dislikes, let us first briefly familiarize ourselves with why human beings like listening to music. In general, we enjoy music which is in time with our heart rate, at a pitch we can hear and with vocals we can understand. The same applies for animals as well and since their heart rates and other features are different from that of humans; their preferences in music too, are not the same. Many people are under the impression that just because they like the music of a particular composer or a band, their pet will like that music too. To those people, this news might be saddening. But at the end of the day, facts are facts.
Some studies conducted by animal psychologists on animals involved experiments to test their behavior while music was being played. In many of the cases the animals showed a total lack of interest and appeared unaffected by the music. Most animals preferred silence to music. It was also observed that heavy metal music proved to have an agitating effect on them. It is not that they have absolutely no interest in music but their range differs. Charles Snowdon, an animal psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is of the opinion that animals march to the beat of a different drum altogether. They enjoy what he calls “species-specific music” that is tunes specially designed using the pitches, tones and tempos that are familiar to their particular species. These findings are based on the experiment performed on Tamarin monkeys. Snowdon worked with composer and cellist David Teie of the University of Maryland to specifically generate music for Tamarin monkeys and then played that music to Tamarin monkeys who have vocalizations three octaves higher than our own and heart rates twice as fast. There were two types of songs. The first song was based on fear calls from an upset monkey, while the second one contained soothing sounds based on the vocalizations of a relaxed animal. After listening to the fear-based track, the animals became anxious and upset and after hearing the calm music, the monkeys became more relaxed and social. However, when human music was played to them they showed lack of interest. The scientists then discovered that animals do enjoy music and will actually have a mood for the type of music that is played. But this music was found to be very shrill and irritating to the human ear.
By taking these findings and applying them to other animals, Snowdon and Teie were able to create specialized music for different kinds of pets like cats and dogs. They even started marketing their compositions to pet owners. Now there are many others as well who sell music for cats and dogs. Composing music for cats is relatively simpler than composing music for dogs. This is because among dogs there are so many breeds and they vary greatly in size, vocalization sounds and heart rates. But since large breed dogs actually have vocal ranges similar to adult male humans, the researchers hypothesize that big dogs are probably more interested in human music than smaller breeds. One of the biggest advantages of this research is that it helps in the care of animals in captivity. Since they are usually depressed, unhappy and sometimes even angry about being confined, this kind of music helps to soothe them. Now the National Zoo in Washington has employed the species specific music for this purpose and also to give the animals a varied sense of environment along with a sense of enjoyment.
Unfortunately, no matter how much the research in this field progresses, according to the scientist Charles Snowdon cats and dogs will never be able to appreciate music the way we humans do. They may enjoy it to a certain extent and also be emotionally influenced by the music but their reactions to it will never be the same as that of human beings. This is because animals have a very good absolute pitch but they lack relative pitch. In other words, animals can recognize music only when it is on a certain pitch but fail to identify it if that same music is played on a different pitch. It is the possession of this relative pitch that gives humans the ability to understand and therefore appreciate music in a different way than animals do. So the next time any pet owner wants to keep a pet entertained, species specific music is the music to choose.