I recently discovered a website about playing music with animals ("turkeys, wolves, kangaroo rats, lemurs, as well as orcas and beluga whales"). Best of all, it has audio samples!
It's called "Interspecies.com" and their information page gives us something to think about:
"Artists' perceptions of nature are different than scientists' [sic]. Biologists operate by a logic of perceiving the world objectively, symbolizing their experience as numbers and objects, doing their best to stand outside and separate, peeking in at nature, albeit observantly, sincerely, wholeheartedly. But to view nature from a perceived outside vantage also voids it of subject; diminishing a personal connectedness, feeling, kinship, obligation, intuition, and other forms of direct relating. Yet it is the way things are perceived in our culture."
That paragraph sounds an awful lot like the conversations I would have in anthropology class in college...
The idea, though, is that music offers a method of interspecies communication. On the site you can listen to a guitarist playing with killer whales, among other things.
There are two things that I thought of when I browsed this page...
1. I find it saddening that this is such a fringe issue. The information page begs us - "Please don't make the mistake of dismissing this view as newage fluff." I guess I've always taken it for granted that animals are responsive to sound and music. It seems impossible to me that dogs, for example, which have far better hearing than humans, would simply ignore musical sounds. It's too bad that this website dedicates so much time and effort to the "balancing" aspect of it all, when it just sort of strikes me as normal. I think that anyone who has spent any time with animals would agree with me.
2. I definitely respect the musicians who are involved in this project, and I think what they are doing is really cool. That said, I must admit that I was not exactly entranced by the guitar playing on the recordings. I would love to hear a wide variety of good musicians playing along with orcas or manatees or what have you. A good upright jazz bass player, for example, or a Max/MSP wizard or a classically trained english horn player. Something like that.
Anyway! Go check it out. www.interspecies.com.