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Re: Reality check (animals and music)

Even if there is some set of sounds which some species of animal is
capable of responding to in the same way that we humans respond to the
set of sounds that we call music, it may not be the same set of sounds.
In other words, "animal music" may be different from human music, and if
so,  it will be different for each species of animal. Furthermore, human
music is distinct from normal human communication sounds (i.e. speech
and a few other things), so animal music is also likely to be distinct
from normal animal communication sounds. Finally, human music is very
difficult even for humans to compose, so we might suppose that animal
music is difficult to compose, and, non-human animals being generally
less talented in intellectual fields than humans, it is entirely
possible that no animal has ever composed a single item of animal music.

I give a more detailed discussion of this issue in

Philip Dorrell.

Robert Zatorre wrote:

Today we have data showing similar signs of appreciation of Mozart's
in rats as in humans.

...and did you know that they also are avid Dostoevski fans; not to
mention admirers of Velazquez?

I checked my calendar, and saw that it was March 1 and not April 1. So I guess this was meant to be taken seriously.

OK; Since nobody else has risen to the bait, I guess someone has to do it.

Let's just point out two things. First, if it may be useful for people
to look at Kenneth Steele's paper in Music Perception [(2003), 21,
p251] in which he points out that rats' audiograms are such that they
are unlikely to hear anything below 500 HZ, and their cutoff is
probably even higher than that based on the reported SPL of 65 and
considering background noise. So this means that whatever they were
hearing, it was Mozart minus everything below about C5.

The second point, which I would expect an undergraduate to be able to
point out (or else flunk my course), is that the cited study used no
control group other than no treatment. So the specificity of the
conclusions is, shall we say, a bit suspect.

I could go on, but instead, may I simply suggest that the conclusion
that rats "show similar signs of appreciation of Mozart" is...um...

Sorry to be such a curmugeon.



Robert J. Zatorre, Ph.D.
Montreal Neurological Institute
3801 University St.
Montreal, QC Canada H3A 2B4
phone: 1-514-398-8903
fax: 1-514-398-1338
web site: www.zlab.mcgill.ca <http://www.zlab.mcgill.ca/>