If you like music, you’re crazy if you don’t read Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise. Although you will never find me accusing birds of being particularly sophisticated, or even remotely associated with something approaching cleanliness, they do seem to have interesting taste in music:

Watanabe and Nemoto [Behav. Processes 43, 2 (1998)] have also shown that, given the option of three perches producing either silence, classical, or modern music, the Java sparrows preferred Bach to Schoenberg and Vivaldi to Carter. These results indicate that Java sparrows or songbirds prefer classical to modern music, or perhaps just more harmonious to dissonant sounds. Additionally, the sparrows chose music they ‘liked’ (e.g., Bach) over silence or music they ‘disliked’ (e.g., Schoenberg).”

The author goes on to note the flaw that really makes this experiment a charade:

A flawed experiment — I have a feeling the sparrows might have preferred Messiaen to all of the above.

Scott Spiegelberg at Musical Perceptions writes this follow-up:

Another interesting result was that two birds who had not shown any preference between Bach/Vivaldi and Schoenberg/Carter were still able learn to discriminate between the two types of music. Thus the lack of preference was not from a lack of ability to tell the difference, but rather from personal taste.

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