Can we say that animals produce music?

Biodiversity is under threat and we are really starting to hear it. In 50 years, 50% of living sounds have disappeared. This music of nature – bird calls, insect songs, choral wolf howls – has never failed to inspire poets and musicians. Can we not then consider these animal voices as music and thus go beyond the old partition of the world, between nature on one side and culture on the other?

listen to the living

Jérôme Sueur studies the sounds of nature to inventory them and protect biodiversity. To the question of whether the voices of animals are music, science answers negatively, but Jérôme Sueur tempers: each one has to answer, personally, according to his own sensitivity. In most cases, sound behaviors occur in a playback context. However, even in the call of the male to seduce the female there emanates a form of aestheticism.

Finally, the most beautiful sound, that is, the one that is usually louder, faster, more modulated, more complex, will attract women more..” Jerome sweat

As a listener, man compares the pleasure generated by these sounds with the pleasure he experiences listening to human music. They both seduce us.

Soundscapes, new listening points

In addition to animals, ecoacousticists also listen to soundscapes.

We are not interested in a single individual, but we are interested in all the individuals, all the species that sing at the same time in a certain place, a forest, a river or an ocean.Jerome sweat

Soundscapes, therefore, are made up of environmental noises that run through a particular landscape: the sound of the river, the wind, the rain, the flowing river, allied to the sounds produced by man in that environment. It is even possible to record underwater, especially the coral reef that Jérôme Sueur compares to an underwater tropical forest.

6 minutes

“We follow these soundscapes to find out how they might evolve spatially within a forest, for example, and then over several years to see how they evolve, particularly according to major changes like climate change..” Jerome sweat

Climate change is also understood

Climate change affects animals in different ways: directly if they depend on weather conditions for their sound communications -then they will sing less if the rain prevents it, or if on the contrary, if temperatures exceed a certain temperature (example of cicadas ); or indirectly, if the habitat is being transformed little by little. The modification of the flora, for example, will impact the entire landscape.

These are truly ecological effects, a cascade of interactions between species, from plants to animals, and the sounds they make..” Jerome sweat

exhibition poster "music animale"
Poster for the exhibition “Musicanimale”

– © Paris Philharmonic

Jérôme Sueur laments that there are few or no sound archives of landscapes to measure the differences. “We started almost a little late,” he confesses to Marie Sorbier’s microphone. However, with biodiversity currently in full collapse, we should expect a sharp drop in insect and bird sounds and ultimately an impoverishment of soundscapes.

This summer it was so hot that almost no one was left: no more animal species in certain places, because there was no more water, neither to drink nor to eat. So all was silent.Jerome sweat

On land, but also underwater, silence bears the stigma of the biodiversity crisis. The acidification of the oceans causes a bleaching of the corals that die from it, and with them all the fauna that surrounds them and the sounds that accompany it.

Leave a Comment