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Jam Makers/But is it Music? Fusion


Segment of a whale song transcribed into notation, by John D. Casnig.


Animal Noises


     It's simple isn't it? A bird sings, therefore the sound it makes is music. The above notation is a song as sung by yet another animal, which we will disclose next month. Sure, it looks like music now, but when the house lights are turned up on this subject, what will we think then?
     A bird's call may be the single note of a chirp, or a whole succession of notes, such as a whippoorwill. A cat may mew for food, or wail at length for companionship. It seems there are many examples of animal noises that muddy the realm between what appear to be animal words and what appear to be animal songs. 
     The dictionaries offer little help. They 'inform' us that a song is a series of words put to music. While rap music is a successful test of this statement, the one-word song "Tequila" only confuses the issue. Unfortunately, birds and cats do their numbers a cappella solo, making a distinction between their words, songs and noises even more difficult.
     Maybe if we knew what the critters were saying it would help. Wait. Few listening to opera or hard rock know what's being said, and both of these are considered music. Comprehension doesn't count.
     We do know that the wail of a cat and the wail of an electric guitar are curiously similar. In fact, many of our instruments can make animal-like noises - as do we, with many of our animal-related words simply onomatopoeia based directly on their calls. We are then treating the sounds animals make as both music and words.
     An animal's voice may be as pleasing as a canary aria or as annoying as the caterwauling of a stray cat; it may convey an indecipherable message in secret words or an emotion in universal tones; our souls may follow every nuance in the sound a beloved animal makes as it howls along while we sing, but is it music...? 



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