Saxophone santa plays for juno
Midori plays Brahms
saxophone for Juno at prom
bagpiper plays for juno
Mariachis play for Juno
Bach, little fugue
Vivaldi, piccolo concerto
Bach, toccata and fugue
brahms, clarinet
Saint-Saens, Carnival of the animals
Click above for 1st Half, Here for 2nd Half
Zhan playing for wild belugas
Zhan playing more flute for wild belugas
Rothenberg plays for wild belugas
Playing Music for Cetaceans in Aquariums
Music where Cetaceans Can See Patterns
Music where Cetaceans Can See Instruments
God rest ye merry gentleman for Juno
Didgeridoo for dolphins
Playing Music for Wild Cetaceans
Rothenberg plays for humpbacks
symbols for whale song - Sea Mammals Are Delightful
Jazz band
Violin music
Movie: Orcas at Vancouver Aquarium with choir and soloists
Cello in Churchill, Canada: Underwater views of belugas
Cello, above water 1
Cello, above water 2
Usual sounds without cello
Interview: wild belugas like the Beatles

irish fiddle for beluga-1
irish fiddle for beluga-2
phone plays mariachis for beluga
Either of the following designs offers whales and dolphins a wide choice of music, with little effort:

  • Humans can provide a collection of music, and whales or dolphins can move forward and backward through the collection, by moving a lever up or down, or using a pair of hydrophones or touchpads. Their memory and patience will determine how far back they go to re-hear a favorite tune. Another lever, or pair of hydrophones or touch pads can raise and lower volume, and turn it off.


  • Humans can display categories of music on a screen, e.g. nine choices arrayed in a tic tac toe layout. Cetaceans can use a joystick or array of hydrophones or touchpads to choose a spot on that tic tac toe board. Two of the nine spots can offer volume up and down. The choices can start with one tune per category or a random tune from the category, provided by a database like Pandora. Later, each spot can lead to another screen, and each of these second-level screens would have six tunes or sub-categories, volume controls, and a back button. This approach lets whales and dolphins have 42 choices with two clicks, or 252 choices with three clicks.

PAST EFFORTS (with Links)

Herman in Hawaii let dolphins choose music. He gave them a single lever with a limited selection, and did not publish any results.

Spong in Canada found orcas wanted new tunes, not repeats, and had "extraordinary acoustic memory."

In Sweden, dolphins chose fish to eat by pointing echolocation beams at hydrophones. The dolphins learned to echolocate on a simple target with very little teaching, according to one paper published. 

The National Zoo in Washington has offered musical instruments to elephants, orangutans, otters and sloth bears, and published very brief videos. Several places have had primatespigs and rats using joysticks to move dots on a screen, for food rewards and intrinsic interest. Research papers also report on other limited music choices by monkeys, rats, birds and fish.


Choices of music can enrich the lives of wild or captive dolphins and whales, and help them learn about humans (since music reveals something about us). Research is also possible: 

  • What varieties of music will cetaceans want? 
  • What volume will they choose? 
  • How will tastes differ among individuals and species? 
  • How many hours at a time will they listen? 
  • How complex will their chosen music be? 
  • Will cetaceans replay tunes or keep going on to new ones? Humans often replay favorite tunes, but reread books only at long intervals.
  • Do they make consistent sounds when they choose tunes?
  • Music has been used as a reward for behavior.


The simplest approach is to use four hydrophones, two to move through a collection of music and two to control volume. ​Software would note when volume on one hydrophone is significantly louder than on the other three, which happens when a cetacean targets that hydrophone. Pointing an echolocation beam is as natural for cetaceans as pointing a finger is for humans. Hydrophones can cost $80 or £55, or more.

Swimmers' touchpads have the disadvantages of high cost ($730) and large size (500mm x 1500mm), and the advantage that humans can touch them as well as dolphins or whales.

Levers have the disadvantage of needing very strong, corrosion-proof suspension over the water, and the advantage of compatibility with joysticks and mice.

screen has the disadvantage of complexity, and the advantages of: faster navigation to different tunes, visual feedback to a whale or dolphin, potential to show musicians playing the tunes, and compatibility with humans' computer screens.
Music is a human achievement which whales and dolphins can appreciate, since these are auditory creatures
We can learn more about them if they choose music themselves, by:

  • Moving a lever in the water, as dolphins in Hawaii have done, or

  • Directing an echolocation beam at a hydrophone, as dolphins in Sweden have done, or 

  • Touching a touchpad, like the ones racing swimmers touch at the end of each lap.