Music loving animals

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Yesterday's post about the nature of transients on musical notes start and stops raised a few eyebrows from readers; not because of the subject at hand but the comment I made about pattern recognition amongst sentient beings. Several of you asked me if I really consider animals sentient and able to recognize patterns as humans do.

Odd question from my perspective - not as a vegetarian - but as an observer of the nature of things around me.

Observe a cat laying in wait for the squirrel or mouse to appear - clearly the cat has a tried and true pattern she's very familiar with at the ready and imagined. The cat understands multiple scenario patterns of what might happen and what reaction both the cat and the mouse will have to those patterns. There are many other clear examples of pattern recognition in the animal kingdom; facial recognition being yet another - our faces are patterns and if you've ever watched your dog's eyes light up when he recognizes your face - there should be no question.

What animals do not seem to be able to do is morph patterns into something unique - what we call imagination and ideas - where we combine multiple known patterns into new patterns that have yet to exist. It is this ability we possess that helps us write music.

All creatures that possess the same hearing acuity we enjoy respond to music. Indeed, there are many examples of housepets being far happier listening to music than silence - and ample evidence it isn't just noise they enjoy - but actual music. As with humans, Mozart is a favorite amongst our animal friends. Surely there's a YouTube video of an animal dancing to the beat.

I am not sure that the unique vocal patterns of a bird, a whale or other animals that communicate through song do not qualify as musical compositions, but most of the scientists in the know would probably dismiss these are "instinct". Whatever the terminology, it is clear to me that our unique abilities to imagine and create new patterns from old is where music comes from and I, for one, am darned glad of it!

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Paul McGowan

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