Music For Cats: Professional musician composes tunes for felines

Nov 11, 2015, 5:40 PM | Updated: Nov 12, 2015, 8:10 am
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Ever wonder what your cat thinks about the music you listen to? Do they like it, hate it? Do they even hear it at all? Well, it no longer matters because they finally have their own music.

“This is Music For Cats,” David Teie says as the music he composed especially for felines plays in the background. “For the first time the world can hear music composed for animals that’s verified by science.”

Teie has been a musician his entire life.

“I’m privileged to have been a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra where I have played for more than 20 years,” he explained. “[I’ve] conducted and composed music for some of the world’s top musicians and even played lead cello with Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony.”

Despite the fact that he’s allergic to animals, and has never had a pet, Teie decided he wanted to make music accessible to all species.

“I got through to Charles Snowdon at the University of Wisconsin and we did the tests on cotton-top tamarin monkeys. So I wrote music just designed for them. Some enlivening music and some calming music and it worked. It was the first controlled study that showed a response to music from any animal.”

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So he moved on to cats. After lots of research, he created music specifically designed for the tones and sounds that cats hear.

“You find out what’s high and pure in their vocal range, where they’re going to be affectionate towards each other. That’s where I want to put the music.”

Testing revealed that the cats reacted even more positively than the monkeys. Teie says he began with components that humans like in music and applied it to cats.

“We have pulse in music and the music of all cultures contains some kind of pulse,” Teie says. “Because when you were in the womb, for four to five months, you could hear the constant heartbeat of your mother. In fact, it’s pretty loud down there. When we’re born we have this memory of the sound of the pulse.

“So if I look at cats, a cat’s brain goes through most of its development outside the womb. So the pulse will not matter to the cat. But what I did think was that the reward-related sound, that all cats would have heard as their emotional brains were being formed, is the sound of suckling. Sort of a swish swish chk-chk-chk-chk kind of sound for cats.”

He used instruments and synthesizers to recreate the swishing sounds, purring sounds and other sounds that cats find pleasing.

“Like birds chirping or their mother’s purr.”

And you know what, it works. My cat, Poppy, was in a deep sleep. But when I played her a sample of Music For Cats from my phone she immediately perked up and her eyes darted around the room. She started pawing at the phone and biting it playfully. She has never done anything like that before. A friends cat immediately ran out of the room when the music came on, but after several plays, he approached the speaker and rolled around near it on the carpet.

“A good many of them will kind of snuggle up with the speaker and they’ll do scent marking and rub up against it. And often just lie down next to it because it’s intended to be calming. It’s an expression of contentment.”

Teie says it’s like the cats are hearing music for the very first time.

“There tends to be a reaction of a bit of surprise,” Teie says. “I remember when I was doing the research on the monkeys and I discovered that I could actually produce a little bit of tamarin monkey [sound] just by whistling. When I did, they all immediately turned to me and it was as if they were saying, ‘Oh my God! He speaks tamarin! Did you hear that?’ They were just frozen. And there is a little bit of that, I think, in cat’s reaction as if they’re hearing something in their own language for the first time.”

David’s next project? Music for horses.

“I really want to bring as much music as possible to as many species as I can. It’s turned into something of a mission for me. Now that I’ve discovered that music is something that can be shared with other animals, before I’m gone I just want to put as much out there as I can for as many different species as I can.”

Music For Cats can only be purchased through David’s Kickstarter campaign, and the album will be released in February.

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Music For Cats: Professional musician composes tunes for felines