...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


by Kaye George

Since I’m a musician and have written a Musical Mystery, I’d like to talk about the ties between animals and music.

First, some famous popular ones. Have you seen Walt Disney’s Fantasia? Do you remember the hippos in tutus, dancing to Dance of the Hours? The goldfish swimming along with Arabian Dance? Or the dinosaurs battling through The Rite of Spring? Those are the first animals that come to mind when I relate animals to music.

In the first of my Cressa Carraway mysteries, I reference a couple of musical pieces with animals themes (chickens and sharks), but there are so many more!

For famous classical examples, Saint Saens’ Carnival of the Animals begins with the Royal March of the Lions, includes hens, roosters, asses, elephants, swans and more. It was written for fun. He tossed it off for a private performance, but today it’s one of his most-played pieces, often played for children.

Peter and the Wolf, by Prokofiev, is also played for children. But in both pieces, the animals characterized are captured perfectly by the music. The pieces are fun to listen to and totally suitable for audiences of all ages.

But beyond music written about animals, we can consider animals that make music: birds and whales. Spring is in full swing in East Tennessee right now, where I’m writing, and I am almost bombarded, out my window, by cardinals and towhees and bluebirds calling out their mating songs.  Much music is modeled after bird song: Song of the Nightingale by Stravinsky, Ballet of Chicks in their Shells (part of Pictures at an Exhibition) by Mussorgsky (orchestrated by Ravel), The Cuckoo and the Nightingale by Handel, Song of the Lark by Tchaikovsky, and a mythical bird--Firebird Suite by Stravinsky.

Animals also enjoy music--sometimes. When I was in junior high school, I had a friend named Barb whose mother who played organ. Whenever she played, their Bassett hound would get as close to the pedals as he could and bay at the top of his doggy lungs. I was never sure if he was singing along or trying to drown it out. 

As a child, we had goldfish that swam to music. Maybe it was just the vibrations, but that’s a big part of music, right?

Do you relate animals to music easily? I’d love to hear more examples.


Kaye George is a short story writer and novelist who has been nominated for three Agatha awards and has been a finalist for the Silver Falchion. She is the author of four mystery series: the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series, the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series, the FAT CAT cozy series (coming in 2014), and The People of the Wind Neanderthal series (see Kaye's earlier post about Mega Fauna of North America).

Her short stories can be found in her collection, A PATCHWORK OF STORIES, as well as in several anthologies, various online and print magazines. She reviews for "Suspense Magazine", writes for several newsletters and blogs, and gives workshops on short story writing and promotion. Kaye lives in Knoxville, TN.


  1. Rossini's Duetto buffo di due gatti (Cat Duet) is one of my favs where the lyrics consist of "miu." I'm also a musician/composer so in my dog viewpoint thrillers, my animal behaviorist protag plays cello and her pets of course react. *s*

    I'm a fan of musical theater so CATS is a biggie. And my co-author and I have written STRAYS, THE MUSICAL with cats and dogs voicing the characters.

    I'll check out your books, what a great combo of music and pets!

  2. Thanks for being here again, Kaye! Animals do more than react to music. My Lab Annie had perfect pitch - she could hit the exact note of any siren she heard. My mom's little spaniel mix Mittens LOVED music. My mom was Scottish, and a friend used to bring his bagpipes over sometimes. Mittens would sit on his feet while he played, and wag for more when he finished a tune. She also knew "her" song when it came on the radio. What was her song, you ask? Why, Al Martino singing "Spaniel Eyes," of course. :-) Great post - I think it could be a huge topic!

  3. I should have mentioned CATS! I'm huge fan of musicals, having played in the pit for summer theater for many years. Thanks for visiting, Amy!

    What a cool dog Annie must have been, Sheila! And a smart little spaniel.

  4. Our current clowder of kitties are quite content to ignore most of our music-making.My hubby sings like Pavarotti, so of course everyone loves to listen to him, even the kitties. But I had a kitty many years ago who was a tough music critic, unfortunately for my singing "career." Sweet Adelines thought I was good enough to sing lead with them. I was so excited I took voice lessons. One day when I was vocalizing, Priss sat by the piano stool, butting my legs, and meowing loudly. I ignored her. She then jumped up on the stool, butted me several times again and meowed loudly. I ignored her again -- I'm nothing if not dedicated to hopeless causes. She jumped down to the floor and with the beginning of the next vocalise unsheathed her claws and swiped my bare leg. I got the message loud and clear. Fortunately I did not need stitches. My ego was more damaged than my leg. But from then on I practiced my Sweet Adelines music and dance routines in a different room. Although I quit the vocal lessons, Sweet Adelines, gracious ladies that they were, let me keep singing with them despite my cat's scathing review.

  5. Do you still sing with them, BKF? I love listening to the concerts, provided the harmony is spot on, which is usually is.

  6. My Aimee's previous owners taught her her name and she loves the song Once in Love With Amy. Since her registered name is GP Sinaye's Plaisir d'Amour of Ajolie she also likes it if I hum Plaisir d'Amour. LOL There is also music created to calm dogs and cats. When I attended a seminar about it, I nearly fell asleep when the woman played the calming music on her harp. Music and animals certainly do go together! Thank you for a wonderful post!

  7. If you play a harp, I'll follow you anywhere! Thanks for coming by.

  8. Loved this blog! I'm a musician and have written several musical stories (none with animals, alas) and love all the works you mentioned. Alas, my labradoodle Shadow does NOT like either my piano playing or my flute. He used to whine or howl when I played the flute. Now he just gets up and leaves the room. I think the sound is too loud for him. A Lab mix I had as a child, however, used to lie under the big, square grand we had when anyone would play. She loved music.

  9. I wonder why some animals are drawn to their owner's music and others aren't. Anybody looking for a dissertation topic?

    1. Kaye, why are people drawn to or repelled by different kinds of music? We're all mammals, so I doubt the reasons (other than training) are very different, really.

    2. I guess that's probably a more relevant question.

    3. I just recalled a book I read a few years ago that gave a scientific explanation for why people like the music they do. It has to do with what age you are when you're hearing it. At certain stages, our brains are hardwired to absorb what we're hearing. I think it was around the teen years, which makes perfect sense. It's called THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC. It impressed the heck outta me.