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🦅 SoundEagle in Debating Animal Artistry and Musicality ğŸŽµğŸ•ğŸŽ¶ğŸ’ğŸŽ¹ğŸ˜ğŸ–¼ğŸ¬ğŸŽ¨


SoundEagle in Animal Artistry & Musicality

Can Animals Make Art and Music?

… a roundtable on humor writing, featuring some of your favorite funny bloggers … revealed the critical gem that a monkey riding a dog is always funny …

A monkey riding a dog or vice versa may be the fodder of some circus act to titillate spectators expecting comical or quaint juxtapositions of unusual animal behaviours. How much more funny (or serious) could the act be if those animals were to display creativity involving certain artistic elements beyond just technical executions?

SoundEagle with Sun, Kangaroo, Bear, Monkey and Dog on Trampoline

According to the musician David Cope who coined the term ‘Biomusic’ in 1971, animal composition represents an example of this experimental musical genre, and is realized by “simply listening to animals create music” as if it is a “natural theatre” event being broadcast live with or without amplification and electronic modification.[1] This definition can be rather problematic because it implies that the act of listening to animals alone can sufficiently constitute the basis of a piece of animal composition without further contextual underpinnings. The saving grace of such an approach nevertheless lies in its potential for broadening the listening experience in the Cagean sense of sonic “happenings”. However, lurking in the same definition is the one-sided perspective that the mental product or experience of animal composition, whether musical or not, is for the sole consumption of the human being, who until recently, was deemed to be the only species on Earth capable of conceiving and appreciating art. This perspective also assumes that music as an artistic composition must pass the criterion of intentionality, under which all music signifies “an act of intentional construction, in other words, an act of creation that actualizes an intention”.[2] Such an epistemic position ultimately degrades animals if it espouses the view that most, if not all, animal species are largely instinctive automata or hardwired agencies devoid of intentions, inspirations, spontaneity and developmental potential. Furthermore, if music must have a “purpose and finality to it, shared between the creators of the music and members of their culture, through which they confirm their common identity”,[3] then the double criteria of having a purpose and intra-cultural identity will lead to the woeful conclusion that the validity and importance of animal sounds and compositions can be decided by how closely related genetically and ‘culturally’ the animal species in question is to Homo sapiens — back to the slippery slope of anthropocentrism!

Another careful reflection on this straightforward definition of animal composition as simply listening to animals in the act of creating music reveals a possible impasse between the perfectionist impressions of nonhuman sound, and the instincts or desires of the human composer or artist to have some measure of involvement. On the one hand, purists defending the right and purity of animal speech will always contend that a true animal composition is that which is performed in a natural habitat away from, or (relatively) undisturbed by, human influence and activity. Unfortunately, the physical world is already so occupied with human presence and affairs that the puritanical will hardly be satisfied by what they encounter as “unadulterated” animal music. To purists’ dismay or abhorrence, mockingbirds and starlings in the northern hemisphere and lyrebirds in the southern have unhesitantly appropriated into their repertoires the sounds of machine guns, excited monkeys, barking dogs, mating cats, toilet flushing, police sirens, mobile phones and computer games. Purists of animal cries must also pardon or endure the cross-species psychobabbles of spiritually possessed, self-humanizing or auto-civilizing ravens, parrots, cockatoos, cockatiels, galahs, parakeets, rosellas, macaws and budgerigars, and especially the Tweety bird who Tawt it Taw a Puddy Tat. After a brief recovery from being exposed reluctantly to the communicative altered states in which animals incorporate human sounds and speeches, those purists, now already teetering on forming a new epistemic truce with their own sonic preconceptions, find themselves further jolted by some animals’ uncanny ability to be receptive towards human music, as the following two examples reveal:

There are stories of dogs who hide under the couch for piano works by atonal composers but not for those by, say, Mozart. One music teacher told [the renowned primatologist Frans de Waal] that her dog would heave an audible sigh of relief if she stopped playing complex, fast-moving pieces by Franz Liszt and proceeded to something calmer. And there are reports of cows that produce more milk listening to Beethoven (although, if this is true, shouldn’t one hear more classical music on farms?).[4]

When I practise the piano my four-month-old white budgerigar, Blanco, sits on a tiny stool at an eighteenth-century enamel and gilt grand piano only four and a half inches long and taps it with his beak. Snowy, an older bird, sits on the music-rest and sways to the music.[5]

On the other hand, if the strict criterion imposed on animal composition by the purists can be overlooked so as to allow some degree of human involvement, intervention or bonding, then the simplest and most direct form of animal performance can often be found in circus animal acts, or in animals kept for behavioural and cognitive research. Animal behaviours and communications have been found to be far more flexible and complex than previously thought. Many taken-for-granted beliefs or erroneous assumptions about the nature and limits of animals have been challenged by research contexts involving not only observations and experiments that incorporate ecological validity but also environmental enrichments that permit ongoing learning and interactions between carers or researchers and the animals involved. Such a close association becomes an integral part of the research, a journey simultaneously blurring the distinctions between laboratory and playschool, between experimentation and domestication, and between observation and participation. These researches are platforms whose structural elements and interactive processes reveal the interplay between natural inheritance and environmental nurture. Their outcomes are highly dependent on the dedication and ingenuity of the researchers, and also on the opportunities, resources and situations presented to the animal subjects. Arguably, the elevated cultural enmeshment and human identification may be another source of objection for purists who prefer to uphold research objectivity and emotional detachment. Nevertheless, the hands-on experiences and findings afforded by these researches have challenged and revised the definitions of intelligence and culture.

For example, at the Language Centre associated with Georgia State University in Atlanta, a twenty year-old bonobo (or pygmy chimpanzee) named Kanzi (meaning “hidden treasure” in Swahili) not only has a 2,000-word vocabulary and understands spoken English, but is also talented at “playing the drums, xylophone, keyboard and harmonica. Sitting on the floor, this huge ape unzips the xylophone bag and, with great care, sets the xylophone down beside him. Pausing for a moment, he holds his sticks in the air. He nods curtly at his audience, then plays a fast and melodic series of notes”.[6] Accompanied by an animal trainer at the helm, a chimpanzee will effortlessly perform in front of a piano and a score in which the musical notes consist of its own fingerprints — thus resulting in a wonderfully comprehensive exemplar of an animal playing animal music based on animal graphic notation! At the risk of committing another act of objectifying or anthropomorphising under the complicity of music and art making, such a performance situation, whether intentional or incidental, leads to a realistic conclusion that the chimpanzee has literally become a live “animal instrument”, not only in vocalizing or singing to its own playing on a musical instrument but also in “sight-reading” its own creation of animal art in graphical notation. Faced with new possibilities, is the human world patient, bold, curious and yet humble enough for a well rendered Concerto for Amplified Chimpanzee and Chamber Orchestra; or a charming Mr Holland’s Opus no. 2 for the Deaf and Four-Legged, the father and music teacher honouring his hearing-impaired son who has been deprived of paternal love and has undergone animal-assisted therapy; or the next brilliant film sequel and interspecies blockbuster Babe Joins the Boston Pop Orchestra; or a new season of faithful subscriptions to the Animal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the indomitable Dr Doolittle and sponsored by the charitable RSPCA? These scenarios are not that far-fetched at all given that scientists had considered the dog and the chimpanzee smart enough to be sent into space! For artists and composers contemplating outshining those memorable scientific achievements, the vital ingredients, beside unwavering confidence, perseverance and funding, are the pragmatic confluence of anti-anthropocentrism to dissolve human-animal class divisions, anthrozoology to foster human-animal interactions, biomusicology to arbitrate between anthropomusicology and zoomusicology, postmodernism to destigmatise playfulness and sociomusical deviance, a fair touch of neo-Dadaism and anti-art to deflect any vilification, controversy, derision and disbelief, as well as an episode or two in Dr Harry Cooper or Rolf Harris’ television programme.

Aside from inventive, norm-bending animal antics, non-intrusive artists of less progressive persuasion and more passive approach may settle comfortably with taking field trips to carry out a sound-hunting mission, with the intention to capture, store and manipulate the recorded sounds later. Avid collectors of natural sounds comprising biophony (the collective sound that vocalizing animals create in each given environment) and geophony (non-biological natural sound in each given habitat) usually rely on direct amplification of animal(s) with a pickup microphone in their natural surroundings — a practice that will still ruffle the feathers of some purists who insist that the deployment of any sound technology dilutes the immediacy, authenticity and discovery of an aural or musical experience (even as one speaks to an audience through a microphone). However, any logistical fury from the purist can hardly dent the glee of an animal soundaholic encountering or approaching wild creatures in hives, cocoons, burrows, caves or other secluded places. From them, many secret sounds are discovered, explored and admired in nature documentaries, concert halls, recordings, relaxation music, or the adventure of Milo and Otis. Dudley Moore, or far better still, Dr Doolittle, could be enlisted to supply the subtitles or translations. To the extent that nonhuman sounds can be stored, digitized, electronically controlled and algorithmically manipulated, the zoological privileging and postmodern resignification of A Chorus Line by Stephen Sondheim or Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev can be reproduced with the sonic equivalent of animatronics. Indeed, digital sampling technology has come very close to realizing a virtual Animal Philharmonic Orchestra for the RSPCA advertisement entitled “All Creatures Great and Small”, in which animal vocalizations are melodically transposed and synchronized to a catchy tune in such a fashion that no audience will ever overestimate the human composer’s musical intelligence and underestimate the creatures’ penchant for singing and stardom.

The Newest Sound Around
The Strangest Sound That You Have Ever Heard
Not Like a Wild Boar or a Jungle Lion’s Roar
It Isn’t Like the Cry of Any Bird
But There’s a New Sound
And It’s Deep Down in the Ground
Any Everyone Who Listens to it Squirms
Because This New Sound, So Deep Down in the Ground
Is the Sound That’s Made by Worms

― Tony Burello and Tom Murray

The lines above constitute a set of spoken lyrics for a song titled There’s a New Sound composed by the songwriter and jazz pianist Tony Burello, and his colleague, Tom Murray. The song was released in 1952 on their own Horrible label, which declared that “If It’s Really a Horrible Record — It’s Bound to be a Hit”. It was indeed selling well over six figures by the spring of 1953.[7] Without actually recording the real sound made by worms moving underground, the song periodically featured an imaginary equivalent of the sound of worms rendered with a human voice uttering “WHEEZ-A WACK, WHEEZ-A WACK” under layers of the latest sound effects and reverberations — hence the claim of the “Newest Sound”. The song was sold to the public as a source of novelty and pleasure through comic showcase, parody and histrionics without appreciable concern about the ramifications of substituting, distorting, fabricating or misrepresenting the sound of ‘low lives’, with whom humans are on less intimate terms.

SoundEagle and the Sound That’s Made by Worms

Conclusions
The sounds and languages found in Nature, and the associations between humans and animals couched in expressive forms of composition, narrative, performance art, popular culture and science, often challenge conventional expectations or entrenched assumptions not only about animals, their individuality, intelligence and social roles, but also about art and music, as well as the procedures, contexts and interpretations involved.

The domestication of animals and plants has in turn domesticated the human species, so much so that we have come to be critically dependent on many floras and faunas not only as food and produce but also as food for the mind, to the extent that they have come to be surrogates, representations and caricatures for our own characters and behaviours, as well as for our need to have companions, to reach out to the other kinds not possessing our language and form, but nonetheless is still able to respond to each other with some common grounds and mutually beneficial interactions, coexisting and co-depending. Just as humans have studied, mimicked, appropriated and even inherited the calls, dances, movements and anatomies of some animal species, many animals have also evolved and learnt to read our emotions, gestures and commands, perform various tasks on cues, detect smells, drugs, dangers, diseases or missing persons, guard against loneliness, accidents or intrusions, and look out for the sick, injured or disabled. One wonders whether the autonomy and sanctity of animals, in the sense of their ultimate importance and inviolability, and of their inalienable status as sentient beings, must be so categorically measured against what has so characteristically defined us as humans, especially when both humans and nonhumans still have so much to learn from each other, the outstanding language barrier notwithstanding.

As discussed in the post entitled ğŸŽ§ Facing the Noise & Music: Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment ğŸ”ŠğŸ¡ğŸž, there are compelling reasons to continue to question our complicity with the Instrumental perspective, which values animals (as well as plants and the natural world) in means-end rationales and anthropocentric terms. These reasons can serve to problematize and scrutinize the concepts of, and the relationships between, artistic expression and interspecies communication. The Instrumental perspective is in diametrical contrast with the Spiritual perspective: the latter attaches importance to deep empathy and identification with animals (as well as plants and Nature), whereas the former is often framed in rights, privileges, access, consumption and quality of life with respect to amenity and recreational opportunity. In the current climate of mounting anthropogenic forces and ecological issues, there is a much belated need to align ourselves more to the Spiritual perspective so as to encourage outlooks that seek to identify and empathize with animals through the world of environmental sound, music and art. Spiritually oriented sound making and listening are firmly and enchantingly grounded in the holistic experience and acoustic connection with fauna, flora and biosphere, opening and maintaining communicative channels essential for preserving identity, intimacy and integrity of a sentient world and its inhabitants. An exemplar of such an approach that both challenges and transcends traditional concepts, mainstream ideas and dominant practices of art and music is given its due or debut in a special post entitled 🦅 SoundEagle in Art, Aphorism and Paramusic 🏝.

One may also question the necessity or relevance of animals painting on canvases or playing musical instruments, and whether these are rather clumsy, ill-conceived or anthropocentric attempts at amusing ourselves at the expense of animals. Indeed, we as humans have had hundreds if not thousands of years to adapt and tailor our art-creating devices to suit our anatomy and ergonomics, whilst animals, regardless of their sizes, forms and postures, have had to make do with whatever tools handed or available to them, whether or not they can appropriately handle those tools with their limbs or appendages. Just as humans are beginning to design smart devices, implants and prostheses to enhance or augment the senses, movements, functions and enjoyments of regular folks as well as individuals who are physically or mentally compromised, perhaps there will be a day when animals can be given their own tailor-made paintbrushes, musical toys, creative playthings and art-making gadgets, which will much better complement and draw out their native talents, inventive impulses and gamesome curiosities, especially if humans have had sufficient time and resources to systematically and scientifically decode nonhuman “speeches” and behaviours, so that artistic creations of animals can be properly elicited, facilitated, identified and/or interpreted. Whilst some may still argue that it is unnatural or unnecessary for parrots, monkeys, elephants or dolphins to draw, paint, dance, create art or make music, one can do very well to remind oneself that human ancestors were not doing a great deal of what modern citizens are excelling in and finding indispensable every day, including driving cars and using computers. By the same token, there are yet more undiscovered ingenious ways to elicit, facilitate, identify and interpret creative animal behaviours. The quantum leap in recognizing and capturing animal intelligence and creativity in the future could be as great as the portentous outcome of discovering extra-terrestrial intelligence or encountering some interstellar civilization(s), whose vastly superior wisdoms and advanced technologies could amplify human intellect and achievement manifoldly.

Therefore, we can begin to look upon the age-old dichotomy of humans versus nonhumans with scepticism and even disdain, and start to see living things as entities interconnected in multiple ways through common evolutionary heritages, in which various physical, mental and social manifestations, including emotion, intelligence, creativity, sapience, self-awareness, intentionality and even culture, are the hallmarks of sentient beings — hallmarks that are not exclusively confined to Homo sapiens, but commonly found and functionally comparable in both humans and nonhumans. Bearing the goal or desire to dissolve the human-nonhuman dichotomy (whether conceptually, ideologically or existentially), how does one contemplate the nature and crossroads of humanity and nonhumanity? How does one fathom what is it like to be nonhuman? Answering these questions, whether via solid research or solemn introspection, and also by way of interspecies communications (including the artistic and musical kinds already discussed), will slowly and surely reveal something deeper or darker about our own species as we scrutinize our own views of, and relationships with, our fellow creatures on Earth, even as we struggle to acknowledge and reconcile that humans, through ignorance, hubris and greed, have repeatedly erred and committed discrimination and even atrocities against nonhumans, such as exploitation, displacement, vivisection and extermination. The journey towards seeking some ontological truth of, and epistemic truce with, our place on Earth and our prejudices rooted in our self-imposed human-nonhuman dualism may eventually uncover that speciesism is not, in and of itself, a complete answer to the root cause of our defence mechanism and offensive stance towards otherness and animality.

Considering that speciesism entails the assignment or attribution of different rights, values, justifications or special considerations to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership (in other words, what species they belong to), it can indeed be argued that speciesism is a pervasive form of prejudice akin to racism, ageism or sexism, insofar as the treatment of those nonhuman individuals by human beings hinges on group membership and physical differences rather than ethics, decency, morality or equality. Upon close examination, we are bound to discover that the crux of speciesism, as of anthropocentrism, and of every otherness that we could discern, is our deplorable ineptitude as humans to (be)hold difference and sameness together. This fundamental inability has handicapped the formation of an outreaching mindset capable of recognizing that both humanity and nonhumanity are part of being earthlings, that each is often necessary to the other, and that we, in the light of species richness, interdependency and biodiversity, can only truly possess and preserve our humanity when both the uniqueness and commonality of other nonhuman species are held in high esteem as treasures equally worth preserving for their own sake, and for their intrinsic significance. Furthermore, the human-nonhuman dichotomy has tenuous currency and feeble validity when we are able to acknowledge that the diffuse (evolutionary and ecological) boundaries and separateness between humans and nonhumans defy absolutely clear demarcations or easy categorizations, given that nonhumans have coevolved with, and contributed to, humans and their culture. The unfolding and blossoming of this intricate interspecies dance can be quite contrary, if not diametrical, to the frequently stark and rigid stereotypes promulgated by certain myths, beliefs, cultures, traditions and even some outmoded scientific claims. In this regard, the tragedy of speciesism has been something long encoded in the human world and etched in human history, and thus cannot be erased retrospectively with continual denial, and also cannot be overlooked or ignored with persistent inaction or indifference, if humans were to live sustainably whilst curtailing their ever-burgeoning ecological footprints.

As further food for thought, SoundEagle is offering you an extract from Canadian cultural theorist and philosopher, Erin Manning, who holds a University Research Chair in Relational Art and Philosophy in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada:[8]

What autistic perception teaches us is that things are not necessarily as they seem. Just because something can be categorized as an object or a subject does not necessarily mean [that] they are more vital than other modes of welling experience. What is needed are not more categories but more sensitivity to difference and a more acute attunement to qualities of experience. This would allow us to see that knowledge circulates and it is through this circulation that learning happens: language and other forms of expression move through us and it is through this movement that we learn.…

In The Minor Gesture, I proposed the concept of artfulness to allow us to move away from the concept of art-as-object. Even with the proliferation, for at least the last half century, of more ephemeral works of art (including performance, installation, et cetera), there tends to remain a very strong association of art with an object, and thus with form. If you add to that the current tendency to canalize art toward a set of concerns or issues (as advanced by the now ubiquitous artist statement), what we have is too strong a tendency, I believe, to connect art to communication, and by extension to the order-word. I am much more interested in the force of art for the invention of free indirect modes of discourse. This is where the concept of the artful comes in — a notion that what creates a shift or an opening in experience carries with it the quality of artfulness. This can include an artwork but is not limited to it. Nor is it limited to the human.…

Creation as resistance begins here, I would say, where artfulness cleaves experience to produce not a recognizable set of frameworks, but new modes of knowing, of feeling, of acting. There is no question that neurodiversity opens the way to such practices, even if only by unsettling the norms through which objects and subjects come to be differentiated and “known.”

This doesn’t mean that resistance is a given within the field of neurodiversity, however. Resistance is always to be crafted. The work must do its work, and for that, the conditions of experience have to be recalibrated each time anew in relation to the ecologies of practices with which they composes [sic]. In Deleuze’s vocabulary, artfulness always calls forth a people to come.

Cultural acceptance or rejection of the behavioural patterns and interpersonal qualities manifesting in certain mental conditions can be very significant to the public receptions and overall social outcomes of those individuals saddled with neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative issues affecting emotion, memory, self-control and learning ability as well as socialization and communication. Such individuals have been labelled as (mentally challenged) sufferers, patients or victims whose behaviours and “disorders” need to be corrected or moderated with therapies and medications. Nevertheless, a permitting culture or an enabling environment will promote understanding and allow those individuals exhibiting such mental conditions to have a better chance of finding acceptance, empathy, dignity, autonomy, acknowledgement and meaningful social role. In these cases, what necessitates the need for correction or (re)assessment is not so much the mental conditions, psychological problems and behavioural issues as the cultural biases and social blinkers leading to denigration, prejudice, ignorance, exclusion, isolation or abandonment. Similarly, what obligates the need for rectification or (re)adjustment with respect to animal artistry and musicality is not so much the scope, definition, differentiation and delineation of animal mind, behaviour and culture in comparison with their human counterparts as the conventional expectations or entrenched assumptions not only about animals, their individuality, intelligence and social roles, but also about art and music, as well as the procedures, contexts and interpretations involved, so that we can have a far better understanding of, and a much improved engagement with, the sounds and languages found in Nature, and the associations between humans and animals couched in expressive forms of composition, narrative, performance art, popular culture and science.

In an age when the ideas of neuroplasticity and neurodiversity are beginning to catch up to, and align with, the now familiar concepts of, and desirable allowances for, multiculturalism and biodiversity, we can better guard against the pitfalls of overly normalizing, regimenting or pathologizing human behaviours, gender identities, sexualities, appearances, comportments, etiquettes, lifestyles, career aspirations, work-life balances, interpersonal communications, body politics and cultural expressions, as they begin to enter the public awareness and discourse in greater frequency and magnitude, especially with respect to bigotry, conformity, integration, inequality, segregation, criminalization, discrimination, marginalization, ostracization and stigmatization. Ostensibly, what was once woefully misunderstood and regrettably deemed as hopeless, intractable or undesirable, including neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, has been gradually seen in a different light, insofar as certain peculiar modes of perception or idiosyncratic facets of cognition are observed to be responsible for breeding savants, including artists and animal whisperers possessing astounding or unusual abilities. Set against our normality, the apparent otherness of such people can nonetheless allow them to excel in what they do, often single-mindedly in precious, unexpected and admirable circumstances. Accordingly, we may indeed have even more compelling grounds to cherish the fascinating encounters or engagements with certain animal (cap)abilities, for despite their much greater otherness with respect to their human counterparts, whether neural or otherwise, innate or cultivated, some animals have consistently exhibited uncanny sameness to human beings in these skills in which they excel, not the least in the almost ritual-like practice and precision of the bowerbird in designing, the lyrebird in mimicking, the bird-of-paradise in dancing, the nightingale in singing, the cockatiel in talking, the peacock in dazzling, and the crow in problem-solving, never mind that these creatures are not bothered with (re)producing or communicating from architectural blueprints, artistic sketches, original manuscripts or compositional scores as definitive proofs of concepts, or as aesthetic statements of intents, visions and missions. Therefore, in the greater spirit of openness and empathy, in the increasing acknowledgement of plurality and multiplicity, and in the essential rebalancing of the Instrumental perspective with the Spiritual perspective, instead of always so exclusively or anthropocentrically admiring and celebrating the supposedly towering human achievements, human beings can finally be free to reflect on their hubris and their disconnect with Nature in order to truly appreciate their closeness and kinship with other animal species: the nonhumans and all their neuroplasticity and neurodiversity, waiting to be fully uncovered, recognized and engaged. Overall, the discussions here have yielded significant glimpses of animal artistry and musicality to provide the impetus or catalyst for future debates and discoveries.

ğŸŽ¼ ğŸŽµğŸ•ğŸŽ¶ğŸ’ğŸŽ¹ğŸ˜ğŸ–¼ğŸ¬ğŸŽ¨ 🥁

Endnotes
[1] David Cope, New Music Composition (New York: Schirmer Books, 1977), 297-8.
[2] Simha Arom, “Prolegomena to a Biomusicology”, in The Origins of Music, ed. Nils L. Wallin, Björn Merker and Steven Brown (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000), 27.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Frans de Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master (2001), 153-4.
[5] A letter to a newspaper; quoted in Leslie, Ayre, ed, The Wit of Music, with an Introduction by Sir John Barbirolli (London: Leslie Frewin, 1966), 92.
[6] Julie Cohen, “When Animals Talk”, in Reader’s Digest (February 2002): 68.
[7] Tim Jay Anderson, “Lost in Sound: Cultural-Material Issues in American Recorded Music and Sound, 1948-1964”, PhD Diss., Northwestern University, 1998. Vol. 1 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI, 1998), 1-4.
[8] Erin Manning, “Histories of Violence: Neurodiversity and the Policing of the Norm”, Brad Evans interviews Erin Manning, 2 JANUARY 2018. Available at https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/histories-of-violence-neurodiversity-and-the-policing-of-the-norm/#!
Submitted as a response to Weekly Writing Challenge: The Best Medicine.
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42 comments on “🦅 SoundEagle in Debating Animal Artistry and Musicality ğŸŽµğŸ•ğŸŽ¶ğŸ’ğŸŽ¹ğŸ˜ğŸ–¼ğŸ¬ğŸŽ¨

  1. All nature is art and music…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Michael, thank you for your comment. You seem to have a very poetic view or art-centric conception of Nature, whilst also possessing the sensitivity to perceive art and music through and in Nature. Here’s a book that might be of great interest and relevance to you: John D Barrow’s “The Artful Universe: The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity“. Happy reading!

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      • Indeed I do, I’m very spiritually connected to all…and music and film scoring is my whole world and occupation…Mitakuye Oyasin my friend…and thank you for the book to read. Many blessings, Red Crow

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are very welcome, Red Crow (Michael). Four informative videos demonstrating animal art and intelligence have now been included in the post.

        Like

      • Great, Wado my friend. That means thank you in Tsalagi tongue, Cherokee.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. To the extent that any art is a creation that should take the recipient on an emotional journey, or elicit an emotional response, animal art – which to me includes painting, music and so forth – has valid function for humans. But the question, I guess, is whether the animal producing the material perceives it as we do. That is unanswerable, but to pose it – and attempt to answer – becomes a useful tool for insight into our own thought processes and perception.

    My take is that the animal probably doesn’t see the material as we do; they perceive it in their own way. It will not be ours – from which flows the question; why do we interpret the animal’s creation in our own terms? There is also a related question; all this art reflects the imposition of human concepts across animal behaviour. Do animals create anything, themselves, that constitutes art? A much wider philosophical issue, I think.I speculate, entirely without any evidence, that aspects of whale music may well constitute such for them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Matthew, for your astute observation and post-mortem pondering. Whilst differences in how humans and animals behave and perceive are apparent, many animals, especially mammals, do share a great deal of genetic similarities with humans, and therefore similarities do exist in spite of those apparent differences.

      Interspecies interactions and communications have illuminated the extent of overlapping in perception, which can be similar and also different both between and within species. For example, many parrots can speak, even sing, and also solve problems and answer questions post by their human companions. Some believe that certain animals (other than parrots) could have articulated if they had been endowed with the vocalizing apparatus that humans possess.

      That both humans and nonhumans share some perceptual similarities could be ascertained to the extent that animal psychologists and behavioural scientists have been able to use similar tests designed for humans to uncover nonhuman behaviours, and to teach sign language to some nonhuman species with great success.

      As for your question “why do we interpret the animal’s creation in our own terms?” and your related question “all this art reflects the imposition of human concepts across animal behaviour. Do animals create anything, themselves, that constitutes art?”, there are at least two important factors to consider in answering those questions. The first is that humans are bound by their languages and communicative devices as much as they are by their tools, toys, terminologies and technologies. Humans are also still in the early phase of systematically and scientifically decoding nonhuman “speeches” and behaviours, and are thus still limited in the means of investigation and interaction via which artistic creations of animals can be properly elicited, facilitated, identified and/or interpreted. In other words, until humans have the means to sufficiently understand how and what animals communicate, there is no way to properly and adequately determine whether animals have been and can be creative in their speeches and actions. However, humans can readily identify and conclude with certainty about the quality of nonhuman creativity when some animals perform certain human activities such as talking, singing, signing, painting, solving puzzles and doing arithmetic.

      Whilst the first factor relates to finding some common communicative grounds or means whereby one species can detect and understand the creativity of another and vice versa, the second factor concerns interspecies discovery, learning, exchange, enrichment, empowerment and coevolution. Whilst some may argue that it is unnatural or unnecessary for elephants or dolphins to draw, one can do very well to remind oneself that human ancestors were not doing a great deal of what modern citizens are excelling in and finding indispensable every day, including driving cars and using computers. There are yet more undiscovered ingenious ways to elicit, facilitate, identify and interpret creative animal behaviours. The quantum leap in recognizing and capturing animal intelligence and creativity in the future could be as great as the portentous outcome of discovering extra-terrestrial intelligence or encountering some interstellar civilization(s), whose vastly superior wisdoms and advanced technologies could amplify human intellect and achievement manifoldly.

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      • “…discovering extra-terrestrial intelligence or encountering some interstellar civilization(s)…”

        Are you sure? ğŸ˜Ž

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wise migarium, do enlighten us with your reservation(s) as well as your take on the Fermi paradox. 👽

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! You are a smart human! But I cannot say anything about the living species at outer space, there is a item which is recorded in page of 69.009 of the book of “The Act on the Protection of Data of the Species” by Galactic Council. According to this code, we, the extraterrestrials, cannot broke this rule by announcing the informations about the other species at the universe. (The reason for the large number of pages in that law book is that the first sixty-five thousand pages were written about which disagreements among the species are not handled by Galactic Council; in terms of reducing work intensity of council.:))

        And about the Fermi paradox: While many observations made by the human beings about the universe are made indirectly, I think there are a lot of road of the human beings will take, for the causality of Fermi paradox to gain the certainty.

        Actually human beings are afraid, my earthling friend. Fear is already the essence of every action and every movement (and many things) of the every living creatures; but the fear into complex minds which are like human brains that determine the reactions of living species that give the neurological reactions without absorbing chemical acquisition of the experience, so the responses that result of the hormonal reactions, is more at the forefront.

        For centuries, humanity, by looking upwards, wonders whether they are alone or not; because the determining factor is fear. (Unfortunately those who best make use of this fear are Hollywood screenwriters, by showing the extraterrestrials as the monsters)

        In fact, this question “are we alone?” is not the right question; in fact this question is not honest either. Of course there are those who are honest, like Blaise Pascal. He had said like that: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.” With the right admission, it could be human beings can take more steps to come close to the other species at universe.

        Actually Blaise Pascal had said this for another situation, but that is quite excellent sentence which suits on the situation of people’s fear about outer space. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • Happy Father’s Day to you, Matthew! It has been a while since we last communicated. Please be informed that there is a newly published, interdisciplinary and highly stylized post that might be of great interest to you at the following:

      In addition, a conversation between SoundEagle and Prof. Pär Segerdahl highlights some of the issues discussed in this post about Animal Artistry and Musicality:

      Hi Prof. Pär Segerdahl,

      Hello! SoundEagle is delighted to have stumbled upon your blog and be acquainted with you and your work here. Since your “research has focused on the language of apes, animal welfare and gender”, please allow SoundEagle the liberty for commenting as follows:

      Interspecies interactions and communications are special in that they can and tend to transcend many boundaries and expectations imposed by human customs and belief systems. Perhaps you have heard of or studied such disciplines as zoo-anthropology or anthrozoology?

      What do you think of the writings of David Abram, specifically his book entitled “Becoming Animal”?

      To what degree does your research entail seeing animals outside of the box of human expectations or ideas that humans have about “utility” (not necessarily limited or pertaining to the utilitarian perspective or paradigm)?

      How do you find Frans de Waal’s book “The Ape and the Sushi Master”, which argues that animals are capable of forming and developing cultures and complex societies?

      Would you agree and/or recommend that we could learn a great deal about ourselves and Nature via the notion of “Biophilia” as first proposed by Edward O Wilson?

      Like

  3. no intelligent response from me just a grin…umm Perhaps there is a mystical music the resonates throughout nature; some songs are audible to human ears, others are not. Perhaps nature, animals, humans, the Spirit in nature and for me God, are all intricatly connected in a divine dance of harmony. As for art, simply another expression of creativity that is the root of all of creation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. have nominated you for the ABC Award-AWESOME BLOG CONTENT:if you don’t do awards, it is still yours

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Impressed by your research and videos – also inspired by the sounds of nature, heard or felt – ever constant crows fill my days with constant craving….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] SoundEagle in Debating Animal Artistry and Musicality (soundeagle.wordpress.com) […]

    Like

  7. Interesting post! I know my own cats have preferences in music, although their preference is generally for something that lulls them to sleep.

    And did you know that there are fashions in whale song? Apparently their songs are not just random: they change, sometimes gradually, and sometimes drastically, and a new song takes about 2 years to get around the world. Here’s a link to the research: http://www.uq.edu.au/grad-school/news-whale-research

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed! SoundEagle has realized for many years that cetaceans have not just “fashions” but also “sound change”, “dialects” and “subcultures”, to use the terms in sociolinguistics. Thank you for sharing the link, Alison! May you have a great weekend and hopefully, you will become a subscriber so that we can have meaningful exchanges from time to time as new posts appear.

      Meanwhile, feel free to click SoundEagle’s Favourite Books to see a small fraction of SoundEagle‘s favourite books, many of which inform SoundEagle‘s worldview and values towards life.

      Like

    • Judging from your gravatar, you must have been a great devotee to your cats, which seem to have learnt to choose, identify and like certain music as lullabies or relaxation tunes. One wonders which tunes they prefer, and which they dislike.

      Like

      • Yes, the image is Siusin, my sole remaining cat. Her preference is for anything in the cello-oboe sort of range: soothing, not too percussive, and very mellow. She’s a very timid cat, who came from a shelter, so I think she had a rough time before she I found her. Anything loud or sudden startles her, so things like the slower Bach trios or Albinoni’s adagio work well, although she’s also keen on the more mellow stuff from Massive Attack.

        My previous two were pretty fearless, and would scamper about the house and romp when I played Madness – ska crosses species boundaries, I guess. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. In my teens I knew a keen and accomplished musician with a singing dog! Sue

    Liked by 1 person

  9. […] Can Animals Make Art and Music? … a roundtable on humor writing, featuring some of your favorite funny bloggers … revealed the critical gem that a monkey riding a dog is always funny … A monkey rid…  […]

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  10. This offers such a good mental floss! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the post! Your identification with music is very clear. I love the way you have chosen to write this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have been exploring for a little for any high quality articles or blog posts on this sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this info So i am happy to express that I have a very good uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed. I so much indubitably will make certain to do not overlook this web site and give it a glance on a constant basis.

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  12. Bonjour mon Amie ou Ami du Net


    Un petit coup de pouce pour l’avenir
    Un petit mot que l’on dis régulièrement tous les jours.
    Bonjour comment vas-tu , moi ça vas , merci
    Ce sont des petits mots qui font plaisir à entendre et d’une belle sincérité
    Une grande marque de confiance
    C’est du soleil en abondance
    Si tu leur donnes un sens

    ​

    On ressent que ceux-ci viennent du cœur
    Avec un clin d’œil moi je te les adresse
    C’est la recette du bonheur accepte les moi je les prends en régal pour ce jour

    Belle journée , gros bisous plein de douceur

    Bernard

    ​

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hello. Thank you very much. Please read more from my blog. I welcome everyone. I see you have interesting things on your blog too. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fascinating discussion on how much we may share with animals who we used to think much different from ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. At least one study has shown that there are beautiful and complex rhythms in the natural world. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A very fascinating and intriguing article! Thank you for sending it. I do not agree with everything in it, and I’m sure you’re aware also of the potential for abuse when human beings make use of animals to create “art” (not to mention sending them into space!); however, I know that that is not what you are primarily talking about. Instead you are writing about an intrinsic ability of animals to genuinely create art and to be truly in touch with aesthetic and spiritual levels of reality. This is a refreshing and profound perspective. Thank you very much for your very perceptive insights!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Amazing … ‘The sounds and languages found in Nature, and the associations between humans and animals couched in expressive forms of composition, narrative, performance art, popular culture and science, often challenge conventional expectations.’ … more in the post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great stuff here SE. One book that really inspired me was reading Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee. The book looks at how different we really are from our closest DNA relatives. I think the common perception is that we are far away from the animal world but a closer investigation reveals so many similarities, not only with chimps but many other members of the animal kingdom. If I remember correctly he goes through 6 qualities that we tend to think our uniquely human and proceeds to show that those behaviors exist elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Mostly with primates, but also looks elsewhere as well. Art is one of the chapters and he talks about much of what you are showing here with regards to chimps, elephants, and even the bower bird, which is really a fascinating bird. He argues also that perhaps one of the reasons why some animals in the wild have not developed artistic talents is simply because they lack the leisure time to do so.

    One note regarding elephant painting though is that I think we should be a little skeptical. Not so much that elephants aren’t smart enough to paint, but whether or not they can paint actual visuals of what they see is questionable, and some animal rights activists say the animals in captivity in Thailand where elephant painting tourism is huge mistreat the animals in training them to paint. Again, not to diminish an elephant’s abilities, but I think we might questions some of the methods being used to get the elephants to paint.

    This snopes article looks more at the spontaneity of the painting itself and how much long training plays in getting the elephants to paint.
    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/elephant-painting/

    Not sure about this source, but it seems plausible. I would say that this one is partially true in that I believe the extremes happen in some cases.
    http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/why-making-an-elephant-paint-is-cruel-not-cute/

    This article is far more researched and well-balanced and also looks at the possible cruelty to the elephants but also the trainers. The discussion is far more balanced in regards to the practice elephant tourism in general.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/05/elephants-tourism-thailand/483138/

    Liked by 1 person

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