Times change, however, and the fish who got to hear it in a Japanese laboratory recently were less upset. On balance, they preferred The Rite of Spring to general noise, but some of them up showed a distinct preference for Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor.
In an earlier experiment, Java sparrows showed a distinct preference for Bach over Arnold Schoenberg, and to Vivaldi over Elliott Carter.
Two of four birds significantly stayed longer on the perch associated with Bach music and retained their preference of Bach to Schoenberg when other pieces of music by Bach and Schoenberg were used. These two birds also preferred Vivaldi to Carter, suggesting preference for classical music over modern music.
One of the two birds that did not show a preference between Bach and Schoenberg preferred Bach to a white noise, but the remaining one did not show any musical preference to noise. These results suggest that Java sparrows have musical preference and that the reinforcing properties depend on individuals.
Kazutaka Shinozuka, lead author of both studies, explained that “generally speaking, modern music includes much dissonance. Thus, although there is no direct evidence, Java sparrows might prefer classical music because of less dissonance.”
No news yet on the value of any of this research to fish, birds or, indeed, humans; nor on the size of the research grant obtained for all this; nor on whether these researchers plan an experiment to see whether fish and birds prefer being with their own kind in the wild to spending their lives in tanks and cages with Dr. Shinozuka and his pals.