You’ll never teach a monkey how to sing

While my posts are often less than serious, this one is slightly sillier than usual. It’s a song I wrote a while ago about animal communication. Enjoy/Endure/Evade:

You can read about some of the theory that I distort with my artistic license here:

Articles by Michael: Imitation in ChimpanzeesAnimals learning syntax , Self-Domestication

Asymmetry, developmental stress and musical protolanguage (about Keelin Murray’s work)

Article by Richard: Breathing control and language

Alarm calls:  Seyfarth RM, Cheney DL, & Marler P (1980). Monkey responses to three different alarm calls: evidence of predator classification and semantic communication. Science (New York, N.Y.), 210 (4471), 801-3 PMID: 7433999

Fooling chimpanzees: Seyfarth, R., & Cheney, D. (2012). Animal Cognition: Chimpanzee Alarm Calls Depend On What Others Know Current Biology, 22 (2) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.050

FoxP2 and birdsong: Haesler S, Rochefort C, Georgi B, Licznerski P, Osten P, & Scharff C (2007). Incomplete and inaccurate vocal imitation after knockdown of FoxP2 in songbird basal ganglia nucleus Area X. PLoS biology, 5 (12) PMID: 18052609

Evolution of voluntary control of breathing: MacLarnon AM, & Hewitt GP (1999). The evolution of human speech: the role of enhanced breathing control. American journal of physical anthropology, 109 (3), 341-63 PMID: 10407464

Tool use: Ottoni, E., & Izar, P. (2008). Capuchin monkey tool use: Overview and implications Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, 17 (4), 171-178 DOI: 10.1002/evan.20185

8 thoughts on “You’ll never teach a monkey how to sing”

  1. I’d be happy to record a follow up track with you at some point… “There ain’t no UG in my brain”, perhaps?

    Also, as I’m a party wrecker (probably explains why my Facebook friends list is on the decline): the picture you’ve got is of an ape, not a monkey. You could be inclusive and say ‘you’ll never teach a primate how to sing’ 😉

  2. Yes, since I was in 5th grade I’ve thought the best test would be to teach any primate to play the drum solo in “Wipeout.” Seriously, it’s just a continuous drum roll with occasional emphases. It’s about as simple amusical pattern as you could have, and it would be interesting to see if any primate could replicate it.

  3. I can foresee a whole album of songs for the millions of language evolution fans out there.

    Primate schmimate. They all look like monkeys to me.

    One of my flatmates used to brag that he could play the Wipeout solo, I thought it was difficult!

  4. What’s tricky about the “Wipeout” solo is getting the accents. They shift from one hand to the other in a way that’s a bit tricky.

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