Animals and Music (Reacting to rhythm)

in StemSocial2 months ago


Nigeria's doctors are on strike, which is a terrible thing for the country, as there is already a shortage of doctors in Nigeria. But I can't lie I have needed the rest because there is a shortage of doctors and that means that I have been stressed way more than I should be. This also means that I might be running out of easy inspiration for writing.

After one of those busy workdays I watched Netflix to unwind and I found this really cool Docuseries titled Explained. I watched like 6 episodes till I found out they were left-leaning in their interpretation of things. Regardless of their political ideology, I can not deny the fact that it was a very educational series.

There are about 3 seasons and I am still in season 1 and I might continue watching despite how annoying their interpretation of the gender wage gap and racial income gap is.

Episode 1 was what caught me and it was titled "Music". I will be breaking this episode into parts. Today I want to talk about animals and music.

In this episode, they talked about how animals can perceive music differently from the way humans do.

It is hard to imagine how life might be for animals because music is inseparable from the human experience. I remember training for the special sports festival (Even though I did not go cause school resumed after the pandemic lockdown) and my deaf 100m training mate would try to join praise and worship by clapping by sight. It was very difficult for him.

Music, as a noun has no other word to describe it. A complex mixture of tone, rhythm, timbre, and emotion

Aniruddh D. Patel, the author of Music, Language, and Music explained how other primates simply can't comprehend rhythm.

Jennifer Lee, better known as DJ TOKiMONSTA described her ordeal as she battled with life without music as a DJ. The picture above is of her (above)performing in Coachella.

She had Moyamoya, a rare disease affecting the brain making language compression impossible for her. Read her story here.

Find the episodes here.

Music Truly is More than just sound!

In secondary school, I was thought in Physics that sound is energy in waveform traveling through the air. In some way, it is waste from the more important energy forms like light and chemical or gravitational energy. I'm exaggerating, but hope you get my point?

Sound energy is a necessity as everywhere in nature, it provides a means for interactions that would be unimaginable without it. So much so that animals evolved to be able to detect it better with ears that allow energy to be converted once again to mechanical energy making hearing possible. Read more here.

This however is the only part about music that is wholly shared with animals.

Snowball the dancing cockatoo

In 2008 Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel saw a video of a dancing cockatoo named snowball. This caught the attention of the cognitive psychologist who for some time had known that animals could not follow rhythm but simply reacted to its sound.

Humans, even though our brain shares similar features with the reptilian brains, and this is used in the rhythm of was a surprise to the world when we saw Snowballs moves to backstreet boys even when the tempo was changed.

If you react to the sounds of music, you'll simply be too late and no matter how much you train a monkey, it will continue to react to the sound of music...humans feel the beat.

Even though Snowball is no longer the only superstar in the area as we now have a dancing dolphin name Ronin, it still remains a fact that animals do not perceive music as we do.

Check out Snowball on the dance floor here.

Animals and Melody

Animals can observe pitch especially birds however one major difference between humans and birds is how we perceive pitch.

While if a song is changed from one key to another we generally know it as the same song, birds do not feel it that way. It is an entirely different song.

In humans, when singing, men and women typically are an octave apart and sing songs knowing that it is the same song...a bird would have to relearn the melody as if it were a new song.

In fact, singing on key is a human construct and birds can not generate the rest of the melody when presented with the pitch. Read here.


Only humans have the ability to understand the rhythm, melody, and emotional qualities of music. It is a cross-cultural phenomenon and the need for music in human society is linked to learning and growth. Most animals do not understand rhythm and merely react to sound and by reacting and not anticipating, they are too late to follow the rhythm of the music.

While birds can perceive the melody of music, they do not do so as we do and can not produce melody on a different pitch.


Hope you enjoyed this non-medical read!

Other reads:


This is quite revealing. In other words, those dancing animals aren't feeling the same sound/music that humans feel even if they are the same sound/music? So, if their dancing goes in rhythm with the music, that can be attributed to chance?

Maybe...not enough studies have been done on these animals.

Their rarity will greatly limit studies on them.

It was an interesting read. !discovery 15

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