I definitely spoke to soon on that previous answer. Bird songs are absolutely a form of culture. I actually don’t know what I was thinking, other than maybe answering a question on my phone might be a good idea?
Anyway, bird songs and other not-so-melodic calls are certainly culture, because at its core culture is simply learned and communicated behaviors. Take zebra finches, for instance … hallo, zebra finch!
Zebra finch males court their mates with melodic calls. Usually they learn those calls from their fathers and uncles. But if they are brought up in isolation, they will tweak those calls and come up with their own personal version (much to the ire of the females, because they know what they like). But as those “creative” males have male offspring, their children and grandchildren will gradually shift the song back to the “official version”.
Is the song behavior coded in their genes somewhere? Do they shift it back because the females pressure them to through mating success (if ya know what I’m saying)? Who knows? But it’s certainly learned and transmitted culture, as well as imprinted culture. Some people just call that “social learning”, but I think that’s splitting hairs to make us feel special as humans. You can read more about these zebra finch songs at Wired if you’re so inclined.
But the real question under all of this is are bird songs music? I argue no. There’s an intent to the creation of music that birds just don’t have. A premeditation that says “I have an idea and I want to communicate it with these sounds.” Birds don’t (seem to) do that premeditation part.
(I’m going to continue pondering this idea … hopefully you will do the same. Social behaviors and bird songs be weird, man. Maybe my opinion will evolve over time.)
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- themultifariousbibliophile said: I like your revision, but then again you have to take other musical ideas like minimalism. In that field of music even silence is considered musical.
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- creepiestthing said: Don’t forget the other cultural mating rituals of birds that include dance and art.
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