Monday 8 December 2008


I've had some curious press notices in my time but probably none stranger than the one which my good friend Michael spotted in the The Sunday Times. In point of fact, he came across it on-line in Nashville, Tennessee, which is, in itself, mildly diverting.

The article in question was entitled 'The Music that Animals Like' and was penned by PAUL DONOVAN, the paper's radio reviewer, who was recounting the musical tastes of a canary which his family have as a pet.

I'd like to be able to tell you the name of the bird in question but Mr Donovan unfortunately doesn't reveal that fact. To be fair, the name is not, actually, relevant to the story but it might have added a certain dash of colour to the telling of it - except that, since it's a canary, it's probably got sufficient colour already...

Anyway, the bird in question -- let's call him Yellow -- was once a great singer. That, however, was in the days when he had a mate (or chum, I'm not sure of the precise relationship) who has since, sadly, died.

Following this bereavement, Yellow has rather lost the will to sing - except when Radio 2 is playing Candi Staton's 'Young Hearts Run Free', Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', The Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour' or various other assorted numbers.

But - and here's where I come (albeit briefly) into the story - Yellow is not keen on speech radio, as his owner explains...

Whenever I brought in the radio from the kitchen next door and tuned it to Radio 2, as I frequently do for company, he started chirruping, warbling and tweeting again — so long as it was music coming out, not speech.
This behaviour has become quite predictable, and I have started to observe what he does and does not like.

On the day I am writing this, for example, he remained completely silent, as I thought he would, when Sarah Montague was interviewing
Brian Sibley on Today in that deliciously hoity-toity voice of hers. Any form of speech, however fetching, leaves the bird completely cold.

Now, whilst I'm obviously sorry that my four-minute appearance on the Today programme (talking, you will remember, about the 80th birthday of Mickey Mouse) didn't move Yellow to song, it is nevertheless nice to be referred to as if everyone would automatically know who that Brian Sibley was that Sarah Montague was interviewing...

So, next time I make it back onto the airwaves, Yellow, I'll remember that you may be sitting there on your perch, listlessly pecking at your cuttlebone, and I'll try to find an excuse to break into song -- it will, of course, probably finish my broadcasting career for good and all; but if it puts a tweet back in your little beak it will have been worth it!

You can read the full text of Paul Donovan's intriguing article here.


SharonM said...

Verily a case of giving someone the bird!
And of course you must be extra famous, because yours was the interview that was mentioned and I should imagine there were others during the course of the programme.
I think it would be perfectly in order to break into a chorus of 'Auntie Mary' next time you are on air.
REFURGIN: Reducing a canary to speechlessness with Sibleyant sounds

Brian Sibley said...

'Sibleyant'? Hmmm, I like it!

BTW, Paul Donovan e-mailed me to tell me of a further instance of the musical taste of animals:

"An example I could also have given was that Ruth and David in The Archers found their cows producing a lot more milk after Eddie Grundy had played country music to them."

Unfortunately, I missed that episode so, I am unable to tell you whether or not the milk was curdled!

Ryan Rasmussen said...

Gotta love these critters. Jenifer's parakeet Zoebird was partial to Metallica (and also a HUGE fan of theme music to The X-Files).

Our rabbit didn't seem to prefer any particular music but was QUITE clear on his distaste for Indian rajas, which would set him to thumping angrily.

Boll Weavil said...

I rather like the idea of a Sibley rendition of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and I think Radio 2 would be an ideal forum for a classical debut !

UPERS : Allegedly the tablets slipped into Mr Sibley's drink in the Radio 2 Green Room just prior to his choruses of 'Scaramouche' interjected into the last radio broadcast of his career.

SharonM said...

Maybe Bohemian Rapsody is a bit ambitious - even for the multi-talented Mr Sibley.
The only time I've ever tried Karaoke was singing that song and it was devlish difficult - even for someone who is a singer.
If you do get the chance, Brian, how about another Queen song - "I want to break free", which not only is a terrific number, but is also a bit of an anthem for many of us?
REINICE: The act of coaching a canary into singing in accompaniment to a Sibley radio interview.

David Weeks said...

I once owned a cat that went quite demented and ran around aimlessly when hearing the music of Morton Subotnick

PHATIO: The effect of strange music upon the subconscious.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anybody GET IT? The canary was LISTENING attentively to Brian!
I once knew a dog (a dachsung) who used to howl at any rendition of the theme tune to Z cars (yes it was a long time ago!)
suphtfa: the generic word for an animal's response to music