Dolphins prefer classical music, apparently

Dolphins prefer classical music, apparently


norman lebrecht

July 14, 2022

Bring on the coloured bouncing balls.

A study by the University of Padua, published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, finds that dolphins behave even more sociably than usual when exposed to classical music. They are particularly partial to Bach, Grieg, Saint-Saens, Debussy and Beethoven.

Er, not quite. They were exposed specifically to Bach’s Prelude BWV 846; Morning Mood from Peer Gynt by Grieg; The Swan from Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens; Reflets dans l’eau by Debussy; and a Beethoven piano movement.

Lucky the researchers held back on the Wagner.




  • Yodi says:

    Next to test if dolphins prefer Boulez to Barbra Streisand.

    (Now that would be a test of how intelligent dolphins really are.)

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    I would like to address one point of locution- an irritant to those of us involved in academic research, and one which recurs constantly. This study is NOT by the University of Padua. It is by researchers associated with the university, whose mission in life is to identify significant questions, and find answers to them. I guarantee that the administration of the university had nothing whatever to do with this research.

    I’d also like to point out that an Israeli animal scientist, Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu, demonstrated many years ago that, when speakers are installed in an egg production facility, and the chickens are allowed to hear classical music, product yield increased by 5 percent. Rock music led to a drop in production. If one calculates how many eggs are produced in a year, it becomes clear that this finding translates to a colossal amount of money. If one broadens one’s viewpoint from egg production in chickens to general intellectual function in humans, the implications are startling.

    • David says:

      Um, how does one infer from increase in egg production in chickens to general intellectual function in humans???

      If you have been listening to classical music and have made this inference, then I think that’s an anecdotal data against what you’re asserting as a possible correlation between human intellect and classical music…Sorry!

  • Sisko24 says:

    Odd, no ‘La Mer’ for them. Wonder why not?

  • Gustavo says:

    So what are the implications?

    Play Bach during installation of offshore wind turbines?

    Or consult Hans Zimmer as sound designer?

  • David K. Nelson says:

    So what this really proves is that dolphins are the sort of people who talk during concerts.

  • DH says:

    Dolphins are clever – perhaps cleverer than we are. Despite the sweet smile they have some nasty habits. They are reputed to do maths as well.
    Perhaps this research shows their preference for the number one.
    Bach Prelude 1 in C major,
    Morning Mood from Peer Gynt Suite No 1 Movement 1,
    Le Cygne – only 1 movement published from Le Carnaval during Saint-Saëns’ lifetime,
    Debussy: Reflets dans l’eau – Images, Book 1, Number 1.

  • M Kaznowski says:

    Proper research would list for completeness which sort of classics they didn’t respond to

  • Violinophile says:

    How could they not play them Handel’s Water Music, Debussy’s La Mer, and Sibelius’ Oceanides? Or even Schubert’s Trout Quintet? You’re going to need a bigger study. Don’t forget PDQ Bach’s Bass in B Minor.

  • Wise Guy says:

    Even dolphins get it. What is this so hard?

  • Margaret says:

    The Dolphins are more intelligent than the Baltimore Symphony non-goers. But, then, they are more intelligent than we are.

  • Paul WL says:

    It works the other way too. I am sure that humans are more relaxed and cooperative after they’ve listened to hours of peaceful dolphin “songs”, of of YouTube is now awash

  • Novagerio says:

    Have they tried with Saint-Saëns’ Aquarium from the same Carnival of the animals?

  • Sheila Novitz says:

    Wise creatures, dolphins are. I have spent weeks socialising with them daily, and have never been disappointed. They really do know how and what humans are feeling. Am unsurprised that they respond well to classical music. Wish they had heard some Haydn and Mozart though. They would’ve laughed at Haydn’s jokes. I don’t think their cleverness is “intelligence” as we perceive it. I believe it is intuitive. Their intuition far exceeds that of humans.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    ‘Thanks for all the fish!’

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    This year, a provisional annual hunt quota of 500 dolphins has been set by the government of the Faroe Islands. Last year the qota was 1,400 so we may expect critically raised prices for a dolphin steak onwards.

  • William Curry says:

    Why the unnecessary slur against Wagner? This is not a rhetorical or uninformed question.There is no living composer or PERSON as influential or as talented as Wagner. In the name of God and the God of music STOP this reckless Wagner-bashing which has NOTHING to do with his MUSIC and LEGACY.

  • Dan says:

    Here’s a track list for further experiments:
    “Dolphin Dance” (Herbie Hancock)
    “Dolphin” (Prince)
    “Dolphin Dance” (Grover Washington Jr.)
    Theme from “The Little Mermaid” (Alan Menken)
    “Too many fish in the sea” (Phil Collins)

  • Frank says:

    What’s the porpoise of this resoirch?