Pet sounds? Music composed for the animals in your life


Laurie Anderson’s Music for Dogs is just one of several compositions written specifically for pets

Music composed just for dogs? You must be barking mad.

Nevertheless, it happened this week: a 20 minute gig that featured audible music as well as electronic frequencies that only dogs could hear.

Music for Dogs is the brainchild of US artist and musician Laurie Anderson, who performed the UK premiere of her work to a packed audience of hounds and their humans this week at the 2016 Brighton Festival, where she is guest director.

Anderson played an electronic instrument of her own invention, the tape-bow violin – the audio output of which was adjusted and broadcast at a low frequency that dogs could enjoy.

The idea for her show came from an off-the-cuff comment made to cellist Yo-Yo Ma nearly a decade ago: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you’re playing a concert and you look out and everyone’s a dog?’

She told the BBC this week: ‘I feel a lot of empathy from dogs. And as an artist I aspire to empathy, more than anything else.’

Anderson is not the only composer to to have worked with the idea of music for animals

Music for cats

Music for Cats is a project by David Teie, a musician and cat-lover who has been working on the theory of species-specific music for the better part of a decade.

Teie’s compositions incorporate feline vocalisations and other ‘cat-centric sounds’, all matched to a cat’s frequency range for an optimog listening expurrience.

His work has featured in an independent study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, who found that ‘cats showed a significant preference for and interest in species-appropriate music’.

Teie has run a successful Kickstarter campaign to enable him to record the world’s first album of music: buy it here.

Music for goldfish

Your pet fish might not obviously appreciate music as much as its mammalian counterparts, but it can tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky, which is more than you can say for a lot of humans.

Researchers at Keio University’s Department of Psychology managed to train goldfish to eat food whenever a certain piece of music was played near their tank. Half of the fish were trained to eat when they heard Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and the other when Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was played.

TLDR; the fish could tell the difference – but actually, they preferred no music at all. Nevertheless, it’s a good story to wheel out the next time someone tries to tell you that all classical music sounds the same.

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