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Serenading the Herd

Posted by bj on Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm still housesitting in the country while my friends are visiting with a relative. Today I got frustrated working on a website I'm designing and needed a few minutes away from it. So I, of course, got up and picked up the fiddle.

I had just been listening to the newest Melvin Wine tune, One Morning in May, posted on the FHO videos, and started figuring it out. Then I kept playing it over and over to cement it in the brain. I must have played it for around 20 minutes, over and over and over, almost trancelike. When I  turned toward the window while I was playing, there was a herd of whitetail deer, around 20 or so, right outside the window and looking in. I kept playing while they contentedly moved the snow to munch on the grass underneath, occasionally looking in at me during their dinner serenade, and staying close to the window the whole time. This went on for another ten or fifteen minutes.

I finally just wore myself out on that song and stopped playing. When they realized I wasn't playing anymore, they slowly moved away.

Animals do respond to music. This is obvious. They even make their own music and animal made music follows many of the music theory conventions of fourths, fifths, chromatic runs, and so on, and it's even been speculated that animals taught humans how to make music. Animals will JAM  with humans, or at least those humans open minded enough to jam with them.

I just wish Briggsy the Cat was more of a musician and less of a Critic.

9 comments on “Serenading the Herd”

janepaints Says:
Monday, January 19, 2009 @5:54:13 PM

The day I completed building my trapezoidal fiddle was the last day of an autumn with a bit of lingering warmth, but the temperature dropped quickly towards late afternoon and a swirly wind picked up. About six deer were in the backyard, as they often are. Each spring fawns are often left at the edge of our yard, their mothers apparently feeling it to be a relatively safe place for their kids to stay while they forage. As a result some of the local deer have 'grown up' with me. I've sat in the hammock about 20 feet away from the deer-babies and played music, sometimes talking to them--telling them they're safe, that I think they're wonderful etc. I.e. they're accustomed to my presence. The day I completed the fiddle, I stood near their little herd and fiddled for them. They all stood alert, seeming to listen. When I finished, I heard a faint high chattering. Apparently, deer can make vocal sounds (I later asked others about this.) Tho without any evidence, I like to think they were commenting on the music. I further flatter myself that they were saying they liked it. When I lived in Wrightstown, PA, a peacock came from the woods and lived on the property. I often had breakfast with him. Granola and raisins. He'd eat out of my hand. He DEFINITELY liked music. Was very attentive whenever I played. I'd sit on the porch, fiddling or picking, and soon enough he'd appear and roost in the tree-limb right overhead. I even have a recording, where I was doing 'God Gave Noah The Rainbow Sign.' It was a summer night, all the windows open. From the woods 'Blue' (my nickname for Mr. Peacock) can be heard screeching along--off-key but totally in time. I've made many recordings of the woods at dawn, when bird song begins to arise from the silence. It it SO definitely music. Years ago living in hilltop orchard country, I made tape recordings of a beautiful solitary bird. When I played the tapes back at half-speed it sounded a LOT like 'Kind Of Blue' era Miles Davis, had Miles played flute instead of trumpet. Very jazzy and bluesy. Repeated riffs, followed by elaborations and improvisations upon the basic riff. I'm in complete agreement with you, BJ. Critters ARE musical. All those bug-&-frog rhythms that fill summer nights--GREAT funky rhytmn sections which I often 'jam' along to. A master-level class in polyrhythms, free for the listening each warm night. Deer seem especially alert to music. The first time I visited a musician friend in Long Island, I sat on her deck fiddling while she finished getting ready for the day. As I fiddled a mama deer and two fawns came from the woods, stood very near and then moved back into the woods when I stopped. My friend has seen it. She was amazed. "They NEVER come that close--it was the fiddle!" When critters have responded to music, it seems almost nicer than human appreciation. How magical--communicating, somehow, directly to other species. The universal language. As for cats--it seems they've acute hearing in the upper frequencies--so, yes, they can be bothered by fiddle. But I bet cats would LOVE cello. They don't mind guitar or piano.
I've played acoustic guitar with cats practically trying to squish themselves into a cozy nook between the git-box and my belly, purring merrily. I love this kind discussion! Critter and human-critter communication via pure sound.

bj Says:
Monday, January 19, 2009 @6:10:17 PM

Well, now that you have broadband, you'll have to meet Nora.

janepaints Says:
Monday, January 19, 2009 @7:01:14 PM

Ain't got broadband yet. Tomorrow or by wednesday, hopefully. Thence I shall encounterth fair Nora. Please tell me she's not an Ox or Wildebeest. Gazelles and giraffes, ok--but I draw the line at oxen and rhinos. :)

bj Says:
Monday, January 19, 2009 @7:08:13 PM

No oxen or wildebeests . . .

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, January 19, 2009 @7:20:42 PM

Years ago I heard some kind of bird singing, perhaps a meadowlark, and tried to write an Irish style fiddle tune with that as a basis... I really didn't improve it any!

When I perform at nursing homes and assisted livings,
I've noticed that if they have finches, the finches go CRAZY when they hear the music, chirping up a storm.

But the funniest thing for me was this cockatiel named Millie at this one assisted living. For a while she was in the living room where I performed. One day, I'd sing a line of a song, and on the long final note he'd go "Cheep!" I'd sing another line, she'd go "Cheep!" in the same perfect place, enough times so I just started to bust up laughing uncontrollably at the thought that the BIRD was singing a duet with me in a classic "call-and-response" pattern! And every time I performed there, if she went "Cheep" it was worse than being tickled-
I'd started laughing in anticipation of her doing the same thing.
We finally had to cover the cage so the show could go on!
I felt bad about it, but there really wasn't any other way.

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, January 19, 2009 @7:36:19 PM

My sister lives next to a Vietnam vet who keeps a bunch of peacocks for security. They are extremely LOUD!
Problem is they would fly across the property line and roost on the roof of my sisters chicken coop. I was staying there,
and my first introduction to them was them making this unearthly racket from the top of the coop which is only like 20 yards from the back of the house. I had never heard them before, and they don't sound like any bird I had every heard..
One day I'd finished up at an assisted living where the previously mentioned cockatiel was. I stepped outside, and there was this mockingbird singing away in the tree above the entrance- he may have been inspired by the music since they often keep the windows open in the spring and summer. I was humbled and in awe of what he was doing-
he was HOT!!!

bj Says:
Monday, January 19, 2009 @7:56:14 PM

Mockingbirds are truly a wonder. I used to have one at a house I lived in once. That bird would mock the baby crying, the cat meowing, the train whistle, and just about any other noise you could think of. But you knew it was him if the sound was coming from the weeping willow tree.

PeachyPicker08 Says:
Thursday, January 22, 2009 @5:58:37 PM

My birds definetly love music, I raise tropical birds that talk and they encourage me by saying 'Pick, Pick!' and singing along on some. Of course they always request that I play 'Freebird' and 'I'll fly away' and they dance to my music also. The other day I noticed a cardinal hopping right up to the sliding glass doors. Guess he likes it too. Occasionally a squirel or chipmunk joins in.

bj Says:
Thursday, January 22, 2009 @6:02:20 PM

Freebird??? Sheesh!

Glad to see you back, PeachyGirl!

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