I was planning on penning a holly-jolly Christmas column sometime prior to Christmas this year, but since Christmas is like, today, I thought it best to simply move along to a topic that’s certainly going to affect all of us in the very near future – musical mice.
According to a recent Associated Press report, University of Washington researchers have determined that male lab mice are capable of “complex and interesting sounds” in the presence of female mice. The sounds, they determined, are not simply random high-pitched squeakings, but patterned sounds similar to bird songs.”
If the analysis by the researchers is confirmed, mice can be added to the short list of creatures that sing in the presence of the opposite sex, including songbirds, humpback whales, porpoises, insects and, possibly, bats,” the AP reported.
(The news agency neglected to mention that human males also have been known to burst into spontaneous song in the presence of females, particularly after ingesting large quantities of alcoholic beverages, but I think we can forgive them this small omission…)
No matter how you look at it, musical mice are bound to have a staggering influence on how we perceive music in the days to come.
The late 20th century gave us punk rock, alternative rock and country rock, but the 21st century has the potential to bring us an entirely new musical form – rodent rock.
Let’s face it, pop musicians probably have known about the likelihood of musical mice for years. They haven’t said much about them – rather closed-mouth bunch when they’re not singing, you know? – but the names of some bands give it all away: Modest Mouse, Boomtown Rats, Mouse on Mars…I have it on good authority from a recognized music critic who once had a job that the Rolling Stones had originally planned on calling themselves the Rodent Stones but opted for the current band name after an unfavorable tarot reading from John Lennon.
(Hey, it coulda happened that way…)
The potential is unlimited. Since hardworking researchers successfully isolated singing mice this year, it’s only a matter of time until they unlock the musical code of rats, beavers, gophers, possums and porcupines.
No doubt about it, amigos, the aforementioned porcupines are sure to lead the new wave of punk rockers for this century.
And finally Alvin and the Chipmunks will be more than just another bunch of goofy cartoon characters. Once we develop the technology to listen in on the vocalizing of real, live chipmunks, Alvin and company will be headed for the unemployment line.
The only possible drawback to this remarkable musical discovery is that it’s going to be considerably more difficult to exterminate pesky rodents when they invade our cupboards and pilfer our pantries.
After all, who could bear to smack a little bitty mouse upside the head with a ball-peen hammer once the tiny fellow spins around and begins crooning “Moon River”?
Originally published December 25, 2005