Zoomusicology is a field of musicology and zoology or more specifically, zoosemiotics. Zoomusicology is the study of the music of non-human animals, or rather the musical aspects of sound or communication produced and received by animals.
Zoomusicologist Dario Martinelli describes the subject of zoomusicology as the "aesthetic use of sound communication among animals." George Herzog (1941) asked, "do animals have music?" François-Bernard Mâche's Musique, mythe, nature, ou les Dauphins d'Arion (1983), includes a study of "ornitho-musicology" using a technique of Nicolas Ruwet's Langage, musique, poésie (1972), paradigmatic segmentation analysis, shows that bird songs are organized according to a repetition-transformation principle. One purpose of the book was to "begin to speak of animal musics other than with the quotation marks", and he is credited by Dario Martinelli with the creation of zoomusicology.
In the opinion of Jean-Jacques Nattiez, "in the last analysis, it is a human being who decides what is and is not musical, even when the sound is not of human origin. If we acknowledge that sound is not organized and conceptualized (that is, made to form music) merely by its producer, but by the mind that perceives it, then music is uniquely human." According to Mâche, "If it turns out that music is a wide spread phenomenon in several living species apart from man, this will very much call into question the definition of music, and more widely that of man and his culture, as well as the idea we have of the animal itself."
Musicologist Marcello Sorce Keller attributes musical qualities to animal sounds, specifically whales' and birds' songs, by stating that regional variations can be found that resemble cultural traits in human music. He advocates for a combined study of zoomusicology and ethnomusicology with the remark that he "would like to suggest that musical scholarship excluding non-human animals cannot ultimately describe 'how musical is man'”
Shinji Kanki composes music for dolphins according to conventions found in dolphin music or found to please dolphins in his Music for Dolphins (Ultrasonic Improvisational Composition) for underwater ultrasonic loudspeakers (2001).
Composers have evoked or imitated animal sounds in compositions including Jean-Philippe Rameau's The Hen (1728), Camille Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals (1886), Olivier Messiaen's Catalogue of the Birds (1956–58) and Pauline Oliveros's El Relicario de los Animales (1977). Other examples include Alan Hovhaness's And God Created Great Whales (1970), George Crumb's Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) (1971) and Gabriel Pareyon's Invention over the song of the Vireo atriccapillus (1999) and Kha Pijpichtli Kuikatl (2003). A. J. Mithra, India's only known zoo-musicologist has composed music using natural birds, animals and frog sounds since 2008.
- Mâche, François-Bernard (1983). Musique, mythe, nature, ou les Dauphins d'Arion [Music, Myth and Nature: or, The Dolphins of Arion, translated from the French by Susan Delaney (1992)]. Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 3-7186-5321-4.
- Ruwet, Nicolas (1972). Langage, musique, poésie (in French). ISBN 978-2-02-002041-1.
- Mâche, François-Bernard (1992). Music, Myth and Nature: or, The Dolphins of Arion. p. 114.
- Martinelli, Dario. "A Short Introduction to Zoomusicology".
- Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1987). Musicologie générale et sémiologue [Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music, translated from the French by Carolyn Abbate (1990)]. ISBN 0-691-02714-5.
- Mâche, François-Bernard (1992). Music, Myth and Nature: or, The Dolphins of Arion. p. 95.
- Keller, Marcello S. (2012). "Zoomusicology and Ethnomusicology: A Marriage to Celebrate in Heaven". Yearbook for Traditional Music 44: 168. doi:10.5921/yeartradmusi.44.0166.
- Von Gunden, Heidi (1983). The Music of Pauline Oliveros. p. 133. ISBN 0-8108-1600-8.