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Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!


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Amos 21 Mar 01 - 10:45 PM
Crazy Eddie 21 Mar 01 - 11:45 PM
wysiwyg 21 Mar 01 - 11:55 PM
rangeroger 22 Mar 01 - 12:23 AM
Amos 22 Mar 01 - 12:28 AM
Whistle Stop 22 Mar 01 - 08:18 AM
catspaw49 22 Mar 01 - 08:37 AM
Crazy Eddie 22 Mar 01 - 08:43 AM
Wolfgang 22 Mar 01 - 09:00 AM
wysiwyg 22 Mar 01 - 09:15 AM
LR Mole 22 Mar 01 - 09:34 AM
Whistle Stop 22 Mar 01 - 01:54 PM
Mrrzy 22 Mar 01 - 02:01 PM
wysiwyg 22 Mar 01 - 03:07 PM
JenEllen 22 Mar 01 - 04:26 PM
mousethief 22 Mar 01 - 04:45 PM
wysiwyg 22 Mar 01 - 06:28 PM
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Subject: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Amos
Date: 21 Mar 01 - 10:45 PM

Rocking and Rolling down to Sydney ...  the Great Whale Way:

The following is excerpted from The New Scientist.
Culture shock

They don't have orchestras or art galleries, tools or technology, but whales still have a rich and varied cultural life, says Stephanie Pain

THEY came. They sang. They conquered. When the Beatles first set foot in the US, they were a phenomenon.
When they sang, the girls screamed. American bands didn't wait to wonder why. They just did their best to sound like the Fab Four.

Thirty years on, a new pop phenomenon burst onto the scene--this time in Australia. In the winter of '96, a foreign group turned up singing a bizarre new song. This time the singers weren't four likely lads from Liverpool but a band of humpback whales that had accidentally strayed into the wrong ocean.

The wandering minstrels normally spent the winter in the waters of the Indian Ocean, off Australia's west coast.
That year they found themselves in the seas around the Great Barrier Reef. The song of the titanic troubadours was an instant hit. In no time at all, the east-coast males had abandoned their own song and taken up the new one. "To start with there were just a couple of whales singing a strange new song--then it just took over," says Mike Noad of the Australian Marine Mammal Research Centre in Sydney. Pop culture, fickle, faddish and unpredictable, is alive and well among Australia's humpback whales.

The notion that cetaceans have any sort of culture, popular or otherwise, is hotly disputed by some. Most social scientists stubbornly resist the idea that animals, even the great apes, have culture. After all, isn't it our languages and folklore, religion, music and all those other sophisticated strands of human culture that set us apart from the beasts? Clearly, whales and dolphins don't have art or literature; they have no architecture, agriculture or fancy cuisine. But patient observation over many years has begun to reveal behaviours that can only have been learned from other whales. And that, say whale biologists, constitutes culture.

"I used to use the C-word with some trepidation," says John Ford of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. But in recent years, he and other whale biologists have become emboldened by what they've found. Hal Whitehead and his colleague Luke Rendell, from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have identified 17 types of behaviour by whales and dolphins which they say are aspects of culture. And this is just the start. "My impression is that there is a reasonable chance that a substantial proportion of whale behaviour is culture--behaviour they learned from other animals," says Whitehead.

Bold words. But mention of the C-word alongside cetaceans still provokes angry outbursts from social scientists. Even the definition of culture is hotly contested. In essence, the debate about whether animals have culture turns on the question of what they learn from each other and how they do this. At the very least, sceptics want evidence that cetaceans can acquire new behaviours through some form of social learning--preferably clear-cut instances of imitation or teaching. And that's not easy to come by. "When you're dealing with large animals that are impossible to keep in captivity, it's hard to prove exactly how behaviour is passed on," says Whitehead.

Few people doubt that captive bottlenose dolphins are adept at imitation. They can reproduce complex patterns of tones produced by human experimenters and can even mimic the body movements of sea lions that share their pool. There is also evidence that captive killer whales can mimic the calls of their tank mates. For biologists who want to learn about the cultural lives of any cetacean in its natural habitat, experiments are out of the question. They must rely on deduction. If members of a group share behaviours that are not the result of genetic inheritance or environmental variation, then they have almost certainly learned them by watching, following or listening to other animals.

So far, humpback and killer whales provide the best evidence of culture in cetaceans and the song of the male humpback is among the most striking examples. Humpback populations in different oceans sing distinctly different songs, but within the same ocean they all stick to much the same score. If that were all there was to it, then the song could be inherited, the males of each population programmed to sing the same song. But the song changes during the breeding season. One male might add an extra set of groans; another might drop a series of grunts. Soon all the other males have altered their own rendition to incorporate the changes until they are once again all singing the same song. The change is obviously not the result of a genetic mutation, nor can it be a response to some factor in the animals' environment--thousands of whales spread across a vast part of the planet sing along to the same tune. The only way all these animals can keep up with the latest version of the song is by learning the new song parts from other whales--almost certainly by imitation.

Culture plays an even bigger part in the life of killer whales. Nowhere is this more obvious than along the north-west coast of America where killer whales are split into two distinct populations--"residents" and "transients". They live in the same stretch of water, but they don't mingle. Their social structure and lifestyles are very different. They eat from a different menu and have devised their own specialised hunting strategies. And they communicate in different ways. In effect, they belong to two quite separate cultures. "Learning and behavioural traditions direct their lives more strikingly than genetic programming," says Ford, who has been studying these whales since the 1970s.

Residents live in stable pods made up of two or three mothers and their offspring--perhaps 20 whales in all. Calves stay with their mothers for life, and in more than 20 years of observation no one has ever seen a whale switch pods. Transients travel in smaller, more changeable groups of between three and six.

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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Crazy Eddie
Date: 21 Mar 01 - 11:45 PM

So the famous quote "All Music is folk music, I never heard no horse sing no song" no longer applies.
We now have TWO types of music: Folk Music, & Whale music.
Of course I've wondered about that quote for some time.
While I've never heard a horse singing, I've heard larks, thrushes & blackbirds produce sounds that sure sounded like music to me.
So that's decided then, THREE types of music, Folk Music, Whale Music, & Bird music. Of course there may be others, such as choirs of Angels, or Faerie Music, but I haven't heard them myself.

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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: wysiwyg
Date: 21 Mar 01 - 11:55 PM

Bet they have a heckuva time using those keyboards to post their lyrics for the DT! For that they have to call in a mudcat.

I think I know now why there are so many song requests in the tech help forum lately. Whales and dolphins are having too much fun to read THIS!

Or-- could it be.... yes.... it would be just like them.... to start a Mudcat takeover, in the help forum! Where it is accepted that people do not always give their names. Ah yes, so cetaceous of them.... they tried Guesting anonymously in the regular forum but we met that challenge head on!

Don't they know this place is big enough for everyone?

But.... Amos, [gasp] are you saying they actually don't like folk music?? Is.... [shudder] is Mbo a plant???

Too awful to think about. Never mind!


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: rangeroger
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 12:23 AM

I have a videotape of a concert done in Vancouver BC at the aquarium there. The orchestra played Alan Hovanes' "And God Created The Great Whales",while the captive killer whales went through routines to the music.

The scenes of the rehersals were particularly fascinating,as recordings of Humpback songs were played to go with the music.These killer whales had been captve their entire life and had never heard the songs of the humpbacks.Their first reaction was a complete cessation of activity and what appeared to be attentive listening.They then burst into frantic activity, splashing the orchestra members, and paying no attention to the signals of their trainers.

They eventually settled down and the show went on.


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Amos
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 12:28 AM

See? Just like those groovy lassies screaming for Paul..... only a lower key and usng different names.... (bwoooooooooomp!!!) Griiiiiiisssss! Griiiiiiiiiiiisssss!! Weeeeeee waaant Griiiiiiis!!!! (broooooomph!)" Sounds kinda like Spaw on a good night.


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 08:18 AM

Amos, thanks for posting this -- I had heard about this too, and think it's fascinating. I'm not an animal behaviorist, and I'm sure that people who study these things have a much more nuanced interpretation of what "culture" is in the animal kingdon (then again, they probably all disagree, just like we all disagree about "what is folk?"). But whatever you call it, this sure sounds to me like sophisticated social interaction and learned behavior. I like to think that our similarities to whales and other creatures are greater than our differences. And music is in the ear of the beholder.

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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: catspaw49
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 08:37 AM

I agree Whistle.......and its more interesting then the other thread with the moose marking the Ford.

Is there something in the air around here lately?....... Aside from the passing gas?


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Crazy Eddie
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 08:43 AM

WYSIWYG, I think we have solved a great mystery, and at the same time uncovered a conspiracy.
I think the whales & dolphins ARE the Mudcat Inner Clique!
And I'll tell you something else I've noticed! Joe Offer, & Flipper: you never see them at the same time do you?
Make you think............:o)

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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Wolfgang
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 09:00 AM

It is worth to follow Amos' link. Especially the part when it comes to explanations was interesting for me.
Of course it depends completely on the definition of 'culture' whether whales have it or not. In the bad old times, even several subgroups of humans didn't have culture according to a very europeocentric definition. Ants, for instance, have social behaviour according to one definition but not according to another.
Learning of the type described in the article above has been shown in several species of birds and of mammals, it would be a wonder if it did not occur in whales.

What intrigues me most is that this behaviour has so far to the best of my knowledge only be demonstrated in animals that can dream, i.e. that have REM-sleep. And there are a lot of interesting speculations about the function of dream for learning and storing new behaviors. I see a speculative connection there which I have not seen in print yet. But I doubt that I am the only one who sees it. A scientific sensation for me would be the demonstration of culture in the above sense in a species without REM-sleep. This would be a finding which would necessitate a major rethinking about learning and storage.


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: wysiwyg
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 09:15 AM

And Joe does seem to come on the hop when there's thread trouble-- you know, like bad clickies, posts to transfer, or an unharvested song. One could wonder if he's picked up an underwater signal horn going off. But I do have a problem seeing cetaceans as cliquey-- they are so darn curious and welcoming, see. Hmmm.... maybe a left-fin conspiracy. We can only guess at this point.

Ever since I first saw this thread posted I have been trying to come up with the thing I saw on the teevee about a group that had decided to do a concert on the beach for the passing whales. I can't recall where this was (west coast, maybe northern part) or what channel it was, or who the group was-- but they thought singing to the whales would attract them, and sure enough, it seemed it did. A pod came by and stayed to listen and as I recall there were recordings picked up from them singing back.

I do not however reecall any screaming or frantic blowing from the offshore audience, so I dunno about this groupie thing. I always associate really serious groupies with blowjobs, but that's just me.

And it's hard to see how cetaceans could relate to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." On the other fin, "Roll Over Beethoven," surely-- and "Fool on the Hill" MOST definitely.


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: LR Mole
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 09:34 AM

Oh, all right. Bob Marley. I said it and I'm glad.

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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 01:54 PM

Susan, I think I saw this, too, but I don't remember any more details than you do. I do know that Paul Winter has been involved in things like this over the years, both in playing to whales/dolphins/wolves/etc., and incorporating their songs into his music. Some of it was a little too bland/New Agey for my tastes, but some was kind of interesting.

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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: Mrrzy
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 02:01 PM

Can you have communication without culture? For instance, dolphins can be taught to run a maze that other dolphins can't solve immediately. Put a taught dolphin in the tank with a novice, and the novice can then run the maze, first time. So they DO have communication. And it takes several to mate with one female because some have to hold her in position (gang rape as a way of procreation?) But they don't have artifacts - do they have lifestyles? This is a fun thread!

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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: wysiwyg
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 03:07 PM

WS, I dunno any more, either, it just is not coming to mind.

Mrrzy, I think the dolphins probably have a sort of Borsht-belt style humor about all the funny things we humans do when we get into the water with them. I think they laugh for hours.


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: JenEllen
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 04:26 PM

Fascinating link! I'd be hesitant to apply the 'c-word' as well, that would imply that they have greater gifts than a mere land-lubber can fathom. The little we DO know is scary enough.

The Orcas in our islands do the same sort of thing. Someone will come up with a new song, and it will be the rage for the summer. I wonder how much of it is passing along a song, and how much is singing that annoying jingle so it leaves your head. My bologna has a first name....

The closest approximation I've seen to culture (and this is of course coloured by my own wicked bent) is the cetacean appreciation of humor. I was called once to observe some dolphins at an aquarium. The trainers had noticed that the entire pod was at first, ignoring commands, then later doing totally inappropriate behavior in response to commands. We ran throught the gamut of tests, and physically the dolphins were fine.

A few weeks later I recieved a call to come down again. The trainers had figured out what was wrong with them lot of them. They were housed in this Mickey-Mouse shaped tank, with the 'ears' as holding tanks, and the 'head' as the performing aquarium. The other ear of the tank held the Beluga whales. The parrots of the sea, unbelieveably adept at mimicry. The Belugas were watching the action from their portion of the tank, and then would either chirrup the "STOP" command, or eventually, a completely different command that they had aquired. The dolphins just finally quit doing anything. (go-stay-fetch)

The thought of it about made me pee my pants, honestly, I had to leave the building.... Imagining, "Pssst, Bill, Watch THIS!!" (rolling beluga laughter) We poor scientific sods can theorize about it until we turn blue, but until we can spend all our time underwater, we'll just never know.


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: mousethief
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 04:45 PM

Okay, here's a first shot at translating some of the lyrics. I'm not fluent in Humpback like Mr. Spock, so I may make a few mistakes.


I give her all my krill
That's all I do
And if you saw my gril -- um -- girl
You'd feed her too
And I love her.


Close your eyes and I'll whistle
Tomorrow I'll miss y'all
I'm off to the Pacific, so blue
And then while I'm away
I'll sing songs every day
And the whales there will sing my songs too

All my whale-songs
I will sing to you
All my whale-songs
Soon you'll sing them too.


Let me sing my song, cos I'm going to
Barrier Reef
The water's not deep
And nothing to get beached about
Bar-ri-er Ree-eef forever.

Singing is easy with eyes closed
Just hum along with what you hear
It's getting hard to learn new songs but it's all right
That is, I think new whales are here.


I was alone, I took a swim,
I didn't know what I found find there
Another pod, where maybe I
Could learn a new melodic line there
Ooooh, then I suddenly heard you
Ooooh, I'll be singing the words you sang
Every single day of my life

Got to learn new songs in my life!


That should be enough for now, to give you some idea of what those whales are doing with our favorite Beatles classics.


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Subject: RE: Music: Cetacean Beatle Fad Discovered!
From: wysiwyg
Date: 22 Mar 01 - 06:28 PM


Jen thread drift (aside)... Hardi heard of a parrot that had learned dog torture. It would call the dog, then when the dog came, BAD DOG!!! Or it would command lie DOWN and then SIT till the dog lost it.

Boredom, whaddaya gonna do?


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