Recently, BBC Radio 3's Late Junction featured a series of unique collaborations between nightingales in an East Sussex wood, and improvisatory musicians. Saxophonist Rachel Musson matched the birds cheep for cheep, and violinist and singer Alice Zawadzki (seen below with Sam Lee) complimented their short chirps with longer, expressive notes:
It's the sort of thing Late Junction does extremely well, and it's by no means the first time humans and animals have tried to work together in a musical way. Fraser McAlpine has hunted down a few more examples from pop music history...
Caroline, No by The Beach Boys
Caroline, No is the final, heartbreaking song on Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson's most expressive and wildly creative album for The Beach Boys (as confirmed by David Hepworth and Johnny Walker, above), but as a grand finale, it's a little downbeat. Thankfully, a clip of a train passing and some barking dogs was included right at the very end, which seemed to round things off nicely.
According to a snippet of studio chatter (later released in The Pet Sounds Sessions), Brian did have other ideas for animal contributions to his masterwork, he can be heard asking the engineer Chuck Britz: "Hey, Chuck, is it possible we can bring a horse in here without ... if we don't screw everything up?" The answer? Neigh.
Work It by Missy Elliott
Not all animal noises are there to provide pastoral relief. In fact, the only use for a landscape view in Missy Elliott's Work It - a particularly direct sexual come-on of a song - would be to set the mood before closing the curtains and putting up your Do Not Disturb sign. However, the sounds of nature do play a part in the song, especially when Missy demands "if you've got a big [elephant trumpet], let me search it."
This particular innuendo was so effective, Christina Aguilera pinched it to add a touch of modern obscenity to her saucy but note-perfect Andrews Sisters update, Candyman. Overwhelmed with desire for her sweet talking, sugar-coated beau, she sings "He's my one-stop-shop / With a real big [elephant trumpet]" - a ringing endorsement for the size of a man's nose, if ever there was one.
Meowrly by Run The Jewels
Here's a story about the most internet thing that has ever happened. Before they released their enormously well-received second album Run the Jewels 2, El-P and Killer Mike (that's them above, rocking Reading + Leeds last year) started a humorous crowdfunded campaign, promising to re-record the album with just cat noises if they raised $40,000. The web being what it is, they actually raised $66,000 and then had to commission feline remixes from the likes of Prince Paul, Portishead and Massive Attack.
The result was Meow the Jewels, an album that may not be a musical work of art, but as a charming and wry dig at the weird preoccupations of web culture, it's practically purrfect.
Or as El-P put it, in tweet form:
Harlem Shake by Baauer
While most of the attention on Baauer's bassquake masterpiece (as expertly contextualised by Annie Mac in the intro to the Mini Mix above) has been on the meme-worthiness of the viral videos that were spawned in its name, the song itself deserves extra credit for making a lion's roar a percussive effect in a song, particularly a song with production as minimal as this one.
After all, does Katy Perry have a roar on her song about roaring? She does not, even after the bit where she sings "you're gonna hear me roar", there is no roaring. Not even a growl.
Frontier Psychiatrist by The Avalanches
You get two animals for the price of one here, and a whole lot of other stuff besides. For starters, there's the hugely atmospheric horse whinnying at the start of the song and just before the big orchestral and choral refrain - taken from a 1968 recording by Enoch Light called My Way of Life. The same noisy nag can be heard galloping around at the end too.
And during the breakdown in the middle, Avalanches DJ Dexter Fabay scratches with the sound of a parrot trying to talk. It's very much that kind of a record.
Been Caught Stealing by Jane's Addiction
Sometimes animals are added to songs to underline a dramatic point, which is what happens at the beginning of Jane's Addiction's rowdy ode to the joys of petty pilfering. Perry Farrell, clearly wanting to suggest that his adventures as a burglar, shoplifter and general thief are sometimes literally quite hairy, added the sound of dogs barking to the song's introduction, to warn home and business owners to be on their guard.
Strobe by deadmau5
Sadly, if you're hoping for the conceptual perfection of deadmau5 (seen here doing his thing at Glastonbury 2015) using a dead mouse for some kind of percussive splat in a song, you'll be disappointed, but the 11 minutes of Strobe are blessed with the sound of a rattlesnake clattering its tail.
He's not the first to make use of that noise, mind you. The Doors added the rattlesnake shake to The Ghost Song, Sharam started She Came Along with the same thing, and so did Avenged Sevenfold, just as the riff gets going in Sidewinder, even though it's a different type of snake entirely.
Wildcat by Ratatat
While Harlem Shake used the low rumble of a lion's roar to break up a particularly insistent synth pattern in a slightly ominous fashion, Ratatat's lighter, disco-friendly affair is regularly interrupted by the feral yowl of what sounds like an extremely miffed wildcat. As a dancefloor filler, it has the effect of being warm, retro and cheesy, but also slightly brutish and unhinged at the same time. And it's an excellent song to do "air claws" along with.
Relevant fact: Ratatat once toured with Super Furry Animals.
Charlton Heston by Stump
For the most part, there are only three sounds on this very odd record. There's a country guitar; there's Stump's Mick Lynch, retelling the story of Moses, largely cribbed from the movie The 10 Commandments, starring Charlton Heston (who put his vest on); and then there's the rhythm track, which appears to have been constructed entirely from the sound of chirruping cicadas and frog burps.
This is not mere whimsy on the band's part (well, not entirely). These animal noises represent two of the Biblical plagues of Egypt - locusts and frogs - as depicted in the movie. Charlton Heston was Stump's biggest hit single, reaching number 72 in 1988.
Good Morning Good Morning by The Beatles
The Beatles were rather fond of animal noises. There are pigs grunting on Piggies, blackbirds twittering on Blackbird, and Paul pretending to be a dog at the end of Hey Bulldog (just one of many innovative musical ideas in their studio work, as George Martin confirms in this clip). But their greatest carnival of animals came at the end of John Lennon's dazzled ode to humdrum life, based on a cornflakes commercial. Raiding EMI's sound effects vault, engineer Geoff Emerick created a montage of animal noises with one rule (set by Lennon), each animal had to be capable of eating or intimidating the one before.
It starts with a rooster, then there are birds, a cat, a dog, a cow, a horse, a sheep, a lion, an elephant and then an entire foxhunt, hounds and all. The sequence ends back with the clucking of chickens, although disappointingly, they're not colossal carnivorous hens looking to peck the elephant into submission.