Music Therapy For People and Animals

Learn more about Jim Nollman's research into how animals respond to music and how it can benefit everyone.


| January/February 1982



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Jim Nollman is learning more about how animals respond to music.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Even homesteaders need to relax and enjoy themselves from time to time, right? And almost everybody these days wants to cut his or her cost of living. So, how about a little do-it-yourself entertainment?  

That's what this column is all about. Down-home music that you can make and the instruments (which, in some cases, you can also make!) to play that music on.

Although almost everyone is aware that humans can use music to communicate their feelings to one another, not many folks have ever seriously considered the potential of that medium for establishing contact between people and members of other species. (Oh sure, Disney films often feature such characters as Uncle Remus talking and singing with wild creatures, but — for most of us — that sort of childhood fantasy has long since faded.)

So, as you can imagine, it was with a certain amount of amazement that I first read about the work of Jim Nollman, the young man who founded a non-profit research organization called Interspecies Communication. Jim has conducted a number of experiments (both on land and at sea) in an ongoing attempt to establish musical rapport with animals. Some of the species he's "jammed" with are kangaroo rats, turkeys, wolves and dolphins.

Musical Conversation With Whales

 

Jim's work with some of the largest members of the mammal family, the orcas — or killer whales — has resulted in his most astounding achievements to date. For example, while using sophisticated underwater sound equipment off the coast of British Columbia, Nollman was actually able — by playing the guitar — to sustain a lengthy musical conversation with a group of the whales. The marine mammals, he reports, tried to teach him a melody line. When Jim played it incorrectly, the orcas patiently (or so it seemed) repeated the sequence more slowly. Then, when he did manage to get it right, they went on to teach him some additional notes!





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