Megan Small: Final Project


Title: Animals and Music on Youtube

Project Description:
A large part of my personal involvement in cyberculture deals with animals. Since I currently have no pets living with me, I spend some of my free time looking at animals online. I am not alone in this type of activity. CBS News reported that “Fifteen percent of all Internet traffic is connected to cats.” Similarly, The Telegraph reports that “One in 10 pets [in the U.K.] has a social media profile.” These animals are gathering such a large following that some (for example Grumpy Cat, Boo, Lil’ Bub) are making a mark outside the Internet with book deals, public appearances, endorsements, and product lines. These animals stars, and many others, are impacting culture both on- and offline and are therefore worthy of study. My project will explore animals online and their connections to music.

Research: My first task will be to gain a wide knowledge of animal presence online. In order to limit my research, I will focus solely on youtube videos because they allow sound and the greatest video length. After watching and studying a large number of videos, I will categorize the videos into various types of connections between music and animals. Preliminary categories include: animals reacting to music, animals performing/playing music, music accompanying videos of animals, and music videos including animals. After categorizing, I will ask “why” the music and animals are connected in this way. I will hypothesize based on observation, and attempt to contact the producers of the video. I will also search for and read scholarly information regarding music and/or animals online. Currently, my main interests fall in the category “music accompanying videos of animals.” My research questions are: what musical characteristics are found in music to accompany animals; was the music composed specifically for this video; how, if at all, do the musical sounds reflect the sounds created by the animal; if the music is pre-composed, why was it chosen; how does the music reflect characteristics/personality of the animal; and how does the music reflect relationships between humans and animals. After I have gathered more information, I anticipate that I will need to set limits for the project. These may limits regarding type of animal, type of video, or number of views.

For my project, I will submit a written paper and some sort of media. This will be determined as the project develops but it will mostly likely be a list of links to the videos discussed.

For my presentation, I plan to do a multimedia presentation in which we will view videos and I will read from my paper.

Updates November 4, 2015

Updates to Proposal:

I have chosen to use YouTube because it is the largest collection of animal videos set to music. I have not chosen to use Facebook videos because not all videos are public. Vimeo was not included for more selfish reasons: I am not as familiar with this site and I find it hard to navigate and search. It is possible that I will miss some potential sources but I believe that there is plenty of material to access on YouTube for my project.

The sources I am studying for this project will help me understand why animal videos are interesting in our study of music and cyberspace. Many of my sources are from the Animals Studies field. In regards to ecomusicological literature, I will continue to study this material as well. The concept of ecomusicology will play an important role in the questions sent to animal owners.
I am planning to send out survey questions to several pet owners to ask about the music set to their videos. Rather than contacting every possible person who posts videos, I am going to contact those who have established a presence as demonstrated by the number of videos, number of views, and number of subscribers. These channels include those for: Lil Bub, Milo, Grumpy Cat, Oskar the Blind Cat, Hamilton, Cole and Marmalade, Beagle Louie, and Marnie. I am also planning to contact the owners of two channels which feature music composed to specific videos: Parry Gripp and Animal Songs.

Annotated Bibliography:underline text
Doolittle, Emily. "Crickets in the Concert Hall: A History of Animals in Western Music." Trans: Revista Transcultural De Musica 12 (2008). Accessed November 2, 2015.
This is a journal article which discusses the connections between music and animals throughout the history of Western music. It is part of a collection of articles on the theme of zoomusicology.
Doolittle discusses several works that depict animals, reference animals, recreate animal sounds, and use recorded animal sounds. Although none of the works discussed involve videos of animals or the presence of animals themselves, I believe that this history can help me describe the music set to the videos I am studying.

Franklin, Adrian. Animals and Modern Cultures: a sociology of human-animal relations in modernity. London: Sage Publications, 1999.
This is a book about human-animal relations. I am focusing on Chapter 5: Pets and Modern Culture. This chapter addresses the role of pets in human life.
Franklin gives a history of pet-keeping in the late twentieth century and the significance of pets in human life. This information will be useful in studying the meaning behind the videos I’m studying for this project. Possible meanings include entertainment, companionship, and therapy.

Higgins, Kathleen Marie. The Music Between Us: is music a universal language? Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012.
This is an book addresses the idea that “music is a universal language.” For my study, I am focused on Chapter 2: Musical Animals. Here, Higgins addresses the capabilities of animals to produce and understand music. She also discusses the ideas of creation and evolution and how they relate to music.
Higgins proposes that music applies to the sounds created by animals as well. There is discussion of intentionality where she quotes Robin Maconie’s definition of music: “any acoustic activity intended to influence the behavior of others…the roar of a lion, squeal of a dolphin, or chirping of a bird as the same kind of activity in principle as a concerto or symphony.” (page 27). Higgins provides information to debate music with function and meaning in animals.

Kavoori, Anandam. Reading YouTube: The Critical Viewers Guide. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2011.
This is a book about YouTube which addresses the various types of videos on the site. I am reading Chapter 1: Introduction because it discusses many aspects of YouTube: what is it?, how does it work?, why do people use it? and many other topics. I’m also using Chapter 5: Where the Domesticated Things Are because it is a discussion of animals and Chapter 7: There’s Music in the Machine because it is about music.
The book focuses “on the stories of YouTube and drawing sustenance from an elemental truth, that storytelling is at the heart of all media (and perhaps at the center of what it is to be human).” (page 2). Chapter 5 is particularly of value because Kavoori sets forth his groupings of animal videos and why they exist. For many types, he attributes connection to human agency and emotion.

Malamud, Randy, ed. A Cultural History of Animals in the Modern Age. Vol. 6. New York: Berg, 2007.
This books is about human and animal relations. I am focusing on the material discussed in Chapter 3: The Present and Future of Animal Domestication written by Margo DeMello. This chapter covers a wide range of topics including farming, breeding, and genetic engineering of animals.
The material I am using will come from the sections labeled: 1) The Rise of Pet Keeping and the Development of the Modern Pet Industry; 2) The Role of Companion Animals Today. DeMello’s discussion of the business of animals and animal products will be important in my discussion of animal videos online. As she points out, people are now using animals for profit. Whether this is true in the videos I will study has yet to be determined.

Tyler, Tom and Manuela Rossini, eds. Animal Encounters. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.
This is a book from the field of Human/Animal Studies which focuses on the Potential, Mediate, Experimental, Corporeal, Domestic, and Libidinal Encounters between humans and animals. From the Mediate Encounters section, I am using Chapter Four: Americans Do Weird Things with Animals, or, Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?, written by Randy Malamud. This chapter focuses on how American culture and politics relate to the way we relate to and treat animals.
The chapter begins with this quote:
“Americans do weird things with animals. Others do as well, but as in most other mass-market cultural enterprises, Americans lead the way, with our commercially-powerful resource-intensive anthrozoological perversities.” (p.73) This chapter will be useful in determining meaning in the videos I discuss. Malamud discussions examples of butchering, dressing animals, and training animals to do tricks.

Final Project

Please click on the files link to see the PDF of the Final Project.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License