Further proof, if any is needed (see His Master’s Voice), that dogs are the most musically talented of all non-human creatures is provided by experiments conducted at Battersea Dogs’ Home, London.
Research into the aural capacities of canines, prompted by the well known ability of wolves to recognise the individual vocalisations of their pack mates, was carried out by Dr Jana du Litöl who said, ‘Until now, very little has been known about the listening skills of dogs whereas it was many years ago that we discovered their closest cousins, wolves posess perfect pitch - a theory proved by the fact that you’ll never see one playing the bassoon.’
Dr du Litöl’s team of anthro-psychologists first taught Siencyn, a three-year golden retriever from Cardiff, to recognise notes blown on an ocarina. He was then trained to play these back on a specially constructed electric piano called the ‘Caninova’. Finally, after a year (7 dog years) of training, Siencyn was told to ‘come’, ‘wait’ and ‘sit’ an Associated Board grade 8 aural test which included questions on cadences, time signatures and modulations. His answers astonished the team which put his performance on a par with that of the average ‘A’ level student. (What makes the dog’s feat all the more remarkable is that fact that the he had to learn German before he could understand a word of his instructor’s commands.)
The research team has been so pleased with their findings that they have continued to give the retriever weekly piano lessons - he apparently has a preference for baroque repertoire and his favourite composer is Telemann. Dr du Litöl believes that Siencyn is yet to reach his musical potential, remarking, ‘His ability to express his innate musicality is only restricted by his physical limitations. (He can’t quite reach a second). Although the works of Liszt and Rachmaninov may be beyond him, his playing of Einaudi is indistinguishable from that of the composer himself.’
This may be just the beginning for Siencyn as his name has now reached the attention of entertainment moguls and record bosses. Rumours circulate about possible CD contracts and concert tours and the bookmakers, Ladbrokes are currently offering odds of 5/2 on him winning next year’s Britain’s Got Talent.