What have I been doing this weekend, apart from attending the National Executive meeting of my party? Downloading Western classical music – or rather, selecting the music on the Net and getting a volunteer to download onto CDs. A shop has donated us a music system and I have put speakers all over the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre. Now the problem is to find what music animals like. Unfortunately the jury is still out on the issue. That animal makes music and that their rhythms and patterns are similar to those found in human music is beyond dispute. That birds and whales sing is also well known. Whales, for example, use many of the musical concepts found in human music, including similar rhythms, phrase lengths, and song structure. Chimpanzees pant and hoot; while some do this, others pat tree trunks. Gibbons and the Nilgiri Langurs engage in great whooping calls. Gorillas ‘chant’ together. These similarities, the Science writers maintain, “prove that these marine mammals are inveterate composers.” Scientists who have studied music in early man (flutes made of bones) speak of “universal music” common to all animals. The field of bio musicology is finding more and more students. There seems to be little question that nature can create aesthetically pleasing sounds. Mozart, for example, rewrote a passage from the last movement of his Piano Concerto in G Major to match the song of his starling. But do animals like human music? Some people say yes. “Scientific experiments have proved it to be beneficial. I studied it extensively during university for my project testing to see whether dogs in rescue centres could be calmed by classical music. Fish exposed to classical music were found to have much higher growth rates than those that were not. There are lots of other studies on dogs which have shown that dogs exposed to classical music were less stressed. Also, apparently cows are happier to be milked if classical music is played. Experiments have shown the various primate species are calmer when played certain types of music, but more stressed when heavy metal music played. Heavy metal has been found to stress out dogs too.”
There is research from Belfast Queens University that suggests classical music relaxes Asian elephants. Cows gather round musicians. When the music stops the cows drift away. An article by MIT-Harvard students in Science 2007 concludes that animals are indifferent to music and new world monkeys such as the marmoset and the cotton-top tamarins dislike music, but if they are forced to hear music, they prefer slow tempos rather than fast ones. A response to this article seeks to disprove its assumption. Experiments by the Japanese duo S. Watanabe and K. Sato in 1998 and 1999, show that sparrows like music, and prefer music of the classical composer J. S. Bach to that of the modern composer Schoenberg. According to the Universities Federation of Animal Welfare, listening to certain types of music may actually help with the welfare of dogs in animal shelters, as these types of music have soothing qualities. However dogs become agitated and nervous when listening to heavy metal. The effects of heavy metal music on dogs can also make the dogs bark. (I remember barking at my son when the noise filtered through his room and into my office!) Classical music soothes and calms dogs, in fact; the Arizona Animal Welfare League plays classical music in the shelter to calm the dogs. A study in Northern Ireland found music from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” among other classical pieces, calmed the dogs to such a point that many of them lay down. Classical music could be used in an owner’s absence to help decrease the symptoms of separation anxiety in some dogs. Animal shelters in Austria playing selections from the popular classics throughout the building to reduce anxiety levels. Human studies have shown that relaxing music can slow the breathing, relax the muscles and reduce the heart rate. Apparently it has a similar effect on dogs. Therapists advocate the use of music to help therapy, and service work dogs relax. Dairy cows produce more milk when listening to relaxing music. Psychologists Dr. Adrian North and Liam Mackenzie at the University of Leicester played music of different tempos to herds of Friesian cattle. Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony resulted in greater milk production. When loud and rowdy music was played, there was no increase in milk yield. Veterinarians are just beginning to use music to increase the levels of endorphins (natural pain relievers) and decrease the levels of stress hormones. The reductions in levels of stress hormones may partially explain the ability of music to improve an animal’s immune function. Simple, melodious tracks like soft western classical, ecclesiastic music or New Age music are supposed to be the best. Remember this however, animals respond to frequency spectrums. Animals will stay near a source of music that has frequencies within their hearing range and move away from music that is jarring or extends outside their hearing capacities. Since animal hearing is 3 times more sensitive than ours keep the volume lower.