A warm welcome to the very first (and so far only) website devoted to zoomusicology. These pages join the forces of some zoomusicologists and zoomusicology-related resaerchers, and aim to be a point of reference for all those people (both so-called experts and so-called non-experts) interested in the relation music-animals, or - as you'll learn in the introduciotn below - in "the aesthetic use of sound communication among animals". The basis of such work is totally interdisciplinary, so you will find contributions from several fields of science.
You are welcome to surf these pages, download everything you think could be useful to your resaerch or personal interests, leave your very appreciated feedback,  and - if you like - contribute actively to the website.
Please, check this site every now and then: you will find new material, and 
hopefully new people.

Enjoy your surfing!

A   S H O R T    I N T R O D U C T I O N   T O   Z O O M U S I C O L O G Y       

Dario Martinelli, PhD

It is always a bit annoying for me to write about zoomusicology (or zoömusicology) on a computer and to see that the Microsoft Word spellchecker underlines in red every single key-word of such a study, e.g., zoomusicology, zoosemiotics, biocentrism, ethology, and so on. It is annoying for two reasons: on one hand, it reveals that these terms are still little known by most people, at least by Microsoft's team, thus there is a big need of more knowledge. On the other hand, it seems that even very popular terms, such as ethology, which was coined in 1762 by the Academie Française des Sciences, are not yet acknowledged as "autonomous" concepts, not depending, for instance, from zoology or biology. Be that as it may, it is true that zoömusicology is a fairly new concept. Not only is its meaning as yet vaguely defined, but so are its interests and its goals. In journalistic jargon, none of the five "W" questions about zoömusicology have been answered.
   Before any kind of analytical attempt, it seems wise to introduce the issue in a very general – simplistic, every now and then – way. It should be soon clear that research of this kind is a) of extremely wide concern (possibly, among the widest, considering the millions of animal species existing on earth); and b) with very few scientific precedents.
   The idea of zoömusicology, in the modern sense of the term, originated with François Bernard Mâche, in his Music, Myth, Nature. He announces that zoömusicology is “not yet born”, thus establishing in actual fact its birth. Briefly put, the aim of Mâche’s essay is to “begin to speak of animal musics other than with the quotation marks” (Mâche 1992: 114). His book first came out in 1983, thus one can understand how little has been said until now about the subject, and how much remains to be said. Next comes a brief introduction to the issues related to zoömusicological study.
    Firstly, there is the problem of defining the discipline. If I was asked to define zoömusicology in few words, in order to include this term in a dictionary, I would probably say that this discipline studies the "aesthetic use of sound communication among animals". This definition would have the following consequences:
1. I would avoid the use of that really dangerous word, "music". This is because such a concept must be handled with extreme care, even when related to just human music. If one approaches a not-yet-defined sound phenomenon and claims that such a phenomenon is musical, then s/he really must prove it. 2. I would include another dangerous word, "aesthetic". That is because a) although non-experts would hardly extend this concept to non-human animals, in actual fact, ethology, especially recently, tends to acknowledge the existence of an aesthetic sense in animals; b) most of all, at this very generic stage, the use of this word, as preferred to “music”, is motivated by the fact that this expression represents a methodological presupposition, whereas the expression "music" constitutes the real theoretical goal. Indeed, concepts like musicality and musical culture still have too strong an anthropological connotation to be applied to the rest of the animal kingdom as well; c) the concept of “aesthetics”, within my theoretical framework, is a fundamental presupposition for defining music.
3. By simply saying "animals", and not "non-human" ones, I leave open the possibility of including Homo sapiens in zoömusicological research. That is because a) as I already stated in the introduction, we should not forget that humans are animals, thus it is important to make clear that zoömusicology is not "opposed" to anthropomusicology, but actually includes it; and b) if the analysis of human behaviour can also fall into the ethological domain, then human music can fall into the domain of zoömusicology. I am not envisioning a zoömusicological version of Desmond Morris’s controversial The Naked Ape, but still I feel that a change of perspective can be scientifically healthy.
4. By saying “sound communication”, I am explicitly declaring a semiotic approach to music. I consider music as both a semantic and syntactic system.        
Secondly, one might wonder about the raison d’être of zoömusicology; i.e., what consequences are implied in zoömusicological study? What is zoömusicology really putting up for discussion? Mâche provides an answer when he says that “if It turns out that music is a wide spread phenomenon in several living species apart from man, this will very much call into question the definition of music, and more widely that of man and his culture, as well as the idea we have of the animal itself” (Mâche 1992: 95).
In my opinion, such a statement implies at least four reflections:
1. Zoömusicology approaches non-human animals from the direction of human sciences, and music from the direction of biological sciences. As I have already pointed out, certain changes of perspective can be quite helpful for a more complete overview of the phenomena analysed.
2. The basic innovation provided by zoömusicology is the assertion that music is not an exclusively human phenomenon, but rather an emotion and instinct-based one. “If we had at our disposal sufficient studies of the neuro-physiological links between biological rhythms and musical rhythms, I would probably have been able to draw up arguments which reinforce the conception I am defending, that of music as a cultural construct based on instinctive foundations […]. But if the animal world reveals to us precisely this emergence of music from the innate, this should enable us to compare it with what happens in man” (Mâche 1992: 95). Hence, to adopt the zoömusicological paradigm means to put seriously into discussion the present definitions of music, starting from its strongly anthropocentric connotation.
3. At the same time, the whole conception of the nature-culture dichotomy is to be revised. Mostly, one should wonder – as Peirce already did in speaking of synechism – if we really have to consider it as a dichotomy.
4. Finally, on a more ethical level, zoömusicology, together with zoösemiotics, cognitive ethology and other studies, testifies to the encouraging progress of human knowledge in studying other animals. Hopefully, the disturbing ghosts of hardcore mechanism, behaviourism and evolutionism, will soon disappear, allowing humans to perceive and interpret other living beings in a more proper and realistic way.