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Posts Tagged ‘pigeon’

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Photo: American Kennel Club
Most species respond to music, just not in the same way humans do.

Now that you have absorbed yesterday’s post on the responsiveness of cheese to music, it should come as no surprise that mammals, birds, and fish also have an affinity for music.

University of Amsterdam professor of music cognition Henkjan Honing writes at Nautilus, “We are all born with a predisposition for music, a predisposition that develops spontaneously and is refined by listening to music. Nearly everyone possesses the musical skills essential to experiencing and appreciating music. … Is musicality something uniquely human? Or do we share musicality with other animals. …

“By the beginning of the 20th century, Ivan Pavlov had discovered that dogs could remember a single tone and associate it with food. Wolves and rats also recognize members of their own species by the perfect pitch of their call and can also differentiate tones. The same applies to starlings and rhesus macaques. …

“Zebra finches turn out to focus mostly on the musical aspects of [sequences, as opposed to the order]. This does not mean they are insensitive to the order … but it is mainly the differences in pitch (intonation), duration, and dynamic accents [that] they use to differentiate the sequences. …

“Humans may share a form of musical listening with zebra finches, a form of listening in which attention is paid to the musical aspects of sound (musical prosody), not to the syntax and semantics that humans heed so closely in speech. … The research on starlings and zebra finches reveals that songbirds use the entire sound spectrum to gather information. They appear to have a capacity for listening ‘relatively,’ that is, on the basis of the contours of the timbre, intonation, and dynamic range of the sound. …

“What we know for sure is that humans, songbirds, pigeons, rats, and some fish (such as goldfish and carp) can easily distinguish between different melodies. It remains highly questionable, though, whether [animals] do so in the same way as humans do, that is, by listening to the structural features of the music.

“A North American study using koi carp — a fish species that, like goldfish, hears better than most other fish — offers an unusual example. Carp are often called ‘hearing specialists’ because of their good hearing. The sensitivity of a carp’s hearing can be compared to the way sounds might be heard over a telephone line: Though quality may be lacking in the higher and lower ranges, the carp will hear most of the sounds very clearly.

“Three koi — Beauty, Oro, and Pepi — were housed in an aquarium at Harvard University’s Rowland Institute, where they had already participated in a variety of other listening experiments. … In the discrimination experiment, the koi were exposed to compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach and the blues singer John Lee Hooker to see whether they could differentiate between the two. In the categorization experiment, the koi were tested to see if they could classify a composition as belonging to either the blues or the classical genre. In the latter experiment, they were alternately exposed to recordings of different blues singers and classical composers ranging from Vivaldi to Schubert.

“The surprising outcome was that all three koi were able to distinguish not only between compositions by John Lee Hooker and Bach, but also between the blues and classical genres in general. The fish appeared to be able to generalize, to correctly classify a new, as yet unheard piece of music based on a previously learned distinction. …

“Rock doves, too, [pigeons] can distinguish between compositions by Bach and Stravinsky. And, like carp, rock doves can also generalize what they have learned from only two pieces of music to other, unfamiliar pieces of music. They can even distinguish between compositions by contemporaries of Bach and Stravinsky. …

“These species can do all of this with no significant listening experience. … This, in itself, is an exceptional trait. Most likely it is a successful tactic to generate food. Yet it still offers no insight into the ‘perception, if not the enjoyment,’ of music. That may be one aspect of musicality that belongs to humans alone.”

More at Nautilus, here. And while we are on the subject of critters’ artistic sensibilities, be sure to read the children’s book This is a Poem that Heals Fish. Hat tip: The inestimable Brainpickings.

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Pigeons are often associated with pollution underfoot, but in London, pigeons are being harnessed in the fight against another kind of pollution.

Melissa Breyer reports at TreeHugger that the ubiquitous birds are being “outfitted with light-as-a-feather backpacks that collect air pollution data and tweet back live info in an effort to track air quality.

“Putting pigeons to work was the brainstorm of Pierre Duquesnoy, creative director at the global marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi. He entered the curious concept into the #PoweredByTweets competition which was launched last year in conjunction with the London Design Festival.

“Currently there are 120 stations monitoring air pollution in London but they are in fixed locations. ‘That means there are blind spots,’ Duquesnoy tells the Evening Standard. ‘The stations are really accurate but only for the immediate vicinity, so scientists don’t have a clear idea of what is happening elsewhere.’ …

“Pigeon Patrol was one of six winning entries that was built and exhibited – and now, the patrol is actually patrolling. [They will] measure levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone, the main gases behind harmful urban air pollution …

“For the project Duquesnoy worked with Plume Labs, a tech firm that helps citizens track their exposure to air pollution.” More here.

Video: Newsy

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When Suzanne was two, she and John used to watch a TV show with a theme song that went like this: “Stop the pigeon, stop the pigeon, stop the pigeon — now!”

One day we took the train to New York City, and in spite of the fact that Suzanne never saw pigeons where we lived, she took one look at the city’s official bird and started singing, “Stop the pigeon!”

So unlike many people, I have some good feelings associated with pigeons, and I am getting a big kick from the pigeons I photographed near city hall yesterday.

Someone with a sense of humor has decorated the barrier around the construction site for the  new Government Center T stop with pigeon portraiture.

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