This is a question that has intrigued many pet owners, including Indian musicians.
I have experienced it several times….be it during my Reyaz or music class, for many years 2 birds used to hang out on my balcony the moment I switched on the Tanpura.
According to Hindustani classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal, her two dogs Nargis and Ringo have always been interested in music. "I've always had dogs around me, and my little dog would come and sit next to me during my riyaz (practice). In fact, sometimes she would even howl along with me," Mudgal said in an interview with Malhaar Morning Raga.
It's a common belief that music is not just limited to humans but also has an effect on our pets. Many pet owners have noticed that their furry friends have a particular reaction to music. For instance, Hindustani classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal has shared how her dogs, Nargis and Ringo, react to her music. Mudgal even converses with her pets about music.
Research conducted by the Scottish SPCA and the University of Glasgow found that classical music had a calming effect on dogs in rehoming centers. Dogs' stress levels decreased significantly after the music was played in their kennels. However, the effect only lasted for a short period, with behavior returning to normal after one day in some cases. The researchers suggest that this might indicate that dogs, like humans, prefer to listen to a variety of music.
Indian musicians have also acknowledged the impact of music on pets. Sitar player Anoushka Shankar stated in an interview that her cats seem to love Indian classical music. She said, "If I’m playing, they’ll come and sit around me, and it’s very sweet." Similarly, violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam shared an interesting incident where his cat interrupted his practice session. The cat seemed to be drawn to the sound of the violin and climbed onto his shoulder as if to get a closer look at the instrument.
Interestingly, the HMV dog story is one of the most famous anecdotes related to music and pets. Nipper, the HMV logo dog, is recognized by music lovers across the world. The iconic logo featuring a phonograph and a dog staring at it has been featured on hundreds of millions of records. The story goes that Francis Barraud, an English painter, inherited a phonograph player, recordings of his deceased brother's voice, and his brother's dog, Nipper. Barraud observed that when he played the records, Nipper would run over to the phonograph, puzzled as to where the voice came from. The scene remained so etched in Francis's memories that even after three years of Nipper’s demise, he painted the same, calling it “His Master’s Voice”. The Gramophone Company purchased the painting for £100, and the hugely popular logo made the company change its name to HMV after the painting.
In conclusion, while the extent of pets' reactions to music may vary, it is clear that music does have an effect on them. From calming them down to piquing their curiosity, pets have their own unique way of experiencing music.
Jogiraj Sikidar is an Indian classical musician and founder & director of Malhaar.