By Jeff Ewelt
I love a good tune. You name it and I'll usually listen to it. Music is great for the soul and can always be paired to your mood. It's especially fun now to see my little mini-me as he learns the fundamentals of swinging to those tunes. Sadly, at 21/2, he already out-dances his dear old dad.
That said, as with most things in this world, humans came into music a little late. Animals had been singing eons before us. In fact, it is believed by most evolutionary biologists that human song developed with the aid and backdrop of natural sounds. Of course, the first humans would have heard the communication efforts between animals, primarily bird songs. It is theorized that humans begin mimicking the communication "sounds" and often incorporated them in their rituals. As these sounds became more elaborate over time through voice and instruments, music as we know it was born. In the meantime, animals continue their vocal outbursts simply as a form of communication. Do animals sing for pleasure? Probably not. However, if you are a believer, here are a few animals known for their delectable voices.
Most of us have heard the beautiful and often eerie songs of whales. These low frequency doozies are meant to be heard over vast distances, sometimes exceeding 1,000 miles. Although these melodies are quite melodious, scientifically speaking, they are used to communicate with other whales on the other side of the ocean.
When it comes to love songs, one raucous ape has Meatloaf beat: The siamang of Malaysia. This ape is not only king of the swing; he is also king of the ballad. When two siamangs "get together," they become bonded and committed for life. For the rest of their lives, these two monkey lovers will sing a duet while swinging through the trees. These songs are rather loud and often continue for upwards of a half an hour. Having enjoyed and witnessed these songs in person, I must say, siamangs truly sing to showcase their relationship and almost appear to be professing their love.
Despite the incredible pipes of the previous two animals, the master of song is, of course, the lovable bird. As we have all experienced, nothing is quite as refreshing as a singing bird on a warm summer day. If you've ever had the joy of being outdoors at sunrise, the mass singing is quite the treat. Many male birds utilize the early morning to sing so their songs travel further due to the thinness of the crisp morning air. These master musicians use their song to find mates, warn rivals, and scare off predators. Some birds such as the kakapo have such boisterous voices, they can be heard four miles away. The nightingale can easily have 300 different songs in his repertoire, whereas the chaffinch may sing his one song up to a half a million times in a season. When it comes to the true Casanova, however, the brown thrasher takes the prize. With over 2,000 songs in his pocket, this Don Juan is certain to get only the best young lady to call his own.
As William Shakespeare once said, "The earth has music for those who listen." Song is one of many things that we as humans take for granted, especially when it's not coming out of our radios. Be sure to pause the next time you're outside and listen to the music that is surrounding you. Enjoy it and remember how lucky we are that our music isn't key to our survival.
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