Animals and Music

by gamanhi

*Pre-Reading Listening:

See if you prefer what birds prefer.

Choose one of :

1. Bach (French Suite no. 5 in G minor) VS.  2. Arnold Schoenberg (Suite for Piano opus 2)

  1. Bach
  2. Schoenberg

Choose one of:

1. Bach (Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major) VS. 2. Schoenberg (Five Orchestra Pieces, Opus 16)

  1. Bach
  2. Schoenberg

Having read about the Mozart Effect and the controversy over its validity, I wanted to look closely at other studies done on how music, especially classical music, influences human and animal behaviors.

Many scientists have tried to prove that classical music reduces anxiety and furthermore benefits human behavior through a series of studies such as but not limited to:

1. Aitken, J., et al. (2002). The effect of music distraction on pain, anxiety and behavior in pediatric dental patients. Pediatric Dentistry, 24(2), 114-118,

(The results of Aitken’s experiment, in which pediatric dental patients were assigned into groups with different paces, did not support the hypothesis that disruption with music helps relieve anxiety and pain.)

2. Voss, J. et al., (2004). Sedative music reduces anxiety and pain during chair rest after open-heart surgery. Pain, 112(1-2), 197-203,

(The study was done with patients assigned to three groups: music group, rest group, and control group. The music group had 30 minutes of listening to selected music (“synthesizer, harp, piano, orchestra, slow jazz, and flute”), the rest group had 30 minutes of relaxing, and the control group spent the 30 minutes for usual activities without any treatment. The result showed that the levels of anxiety, pain sensation, and pain distress of the music group were most of the time significantly less than the rest group or the control group.)

While it seems that whether music benefits humans in certain ways is yet to be proven, research about animal behaviors in response to classical music sheds some light on the matter.


McDermott and Hauser, who at the time were scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University respectively, did an experiment in 2007 on monkeys that were put into chambers of different kinds of music. It turns out that they preferred slow-paced flute lullabies to an electronic techno, “Nobody Gets Out Alive” but all together preferred silence to any kinds of music. Some scientists responded to the work saying humans are the only organisms with “natural, or innate, inclination to engage with music.” The answer for this issue is also a “maybe” since not much is known on how monkeys percept music with its given hearing range within the scales.


The same year, another article on Science magazine titled “Birds like Music, Too” provided an interesting piece that adds paradox to the existing notion gained from McDermott and Hauser’s experiment. The result yielded that Java sparrows preferred harmonious classical (i.e. those of Bach and Vivaldi) over silence or dissonant sounds of modern works (Schoenberg). The experiments showed that not only birds showed strong preference towards classical music but also suggested that birds naturally like music.

“Birds like Music, Too”:

If we were to investigate the influence of music on other animals, it would be better to just create a course dedicated to that matter. Shelter dogs have shown an increase of body shaking with an increase of heavy metal music auditing and an increase of sleep hours with an increase of classical music auditing (article: Classical music evidently helps rats find the way out of a maze faster. Cows after hearing classical music produce more milk (article: For a quirky exploration, look into Musicmakesmoremilk (at You can listen to the finalists’ mashup songs that helped cows produce the largest amount of milk.