One of my main research interests is the relationship between human music and animal songs. In Other Species Counterpoint (PhD dissertation, Princeton, 2007) I explored the philosophical question of whether some animal songs can be considered music. Following that, I investigated how humans across cultures and time periods have used animal songs in their music (resulting in Crickets in the Concert Hall). More recently, I’ve collaborated with scientists to analyze bird and other animal songs from both a musical and a scientific perspective.

In 2011 I was composer-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen, Germany), where ornithologist Henrik Brumm and I discovered that the musician wren shows a preference for singing perfect consonant intervals (O Canto do Uirapuru, 2012). In 2014, Bruno Gingras, Dominik Endres, Tecumseh Fitch and I published a paper showing that hermit thrushes base their songs on the overtone series (Overtone-based pitch selection in the song of the hermit thrush). Upcoming projects include research on grey seal vocalizations with Vincent Janik at St Andrews University, which will culminate in both a paper and a piece for the St Andrews New Music Ensemble, conducted by Bede Williams.


Emily Doolittle and Bruno Gingras. “Quick Guide: Zoomusicology.” Current Biology 24, no. 19 (2015): R819-R820. [Full text]

Emily Doolittle. “Music Theory is For the Birds,” in Sound in the Land: Music and the Environment, Carol Ann Weaver, Doreen Helen Klassen, and Judith Klassen, eds. Conrad Grebel Press (2015).

Emily Doolittle, Bruno Gingras, Dominik M. Endres, and W. Tecumseh Fitch. “Overtone-based pitch selection in hermit thrush song: Unexpected convergence with scale construction in human music.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 46 (2014): 16616-16621. [Full text]. Media coverage of this research can be found on the Press page.

Peter Slater and Emily Doolittle. “Animal Music.” Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (September, 2014).

Emily Doolittle and Henrik Brumm. “O Canto do Uirapuru: Consonant intervals and patterns in the song of the musician wren.”Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies 6, no. 1 (2012): 55-85. [Full text] Media coverage of this research can be found on the Press page.

Emily Doolittle. “Animal Sounds or Animal Songs?” The Journal of Music, (July, 2012). [Full text]

Emily Doolittle. “Crickets in the concert hall: A history of animals in western music.” Trans. Revista Transcultural de Música 12 (2008). [Full text]

Emily DoolittleOther Species’ Counterpoint: An Investigation of the Relationship Between Human Music and Animal Songs, PhD dissertation, Princeton University (2007).

Other topics

Emily Doolittle, “Composing and Motherhood.” New Music Box (April 26, 2017). [Full text].

Emily Doolittle, “Performing Creativity: Composing in the Era of Entrepreneurship.” VAN Magazine (July 21, 2016). [Full text].

Emily Doolittle, guest post on JDCMB. “(The Lovely and) Talented” (April 15, 2016)

Emily Doolittle. “Thoughts on R. Murray Schafer’s Wolf Project,” unpublished (2001). [Full text]

Upcoming Events

  • The Craft Ensemble will be performing falling still on February 3, 2018 at 7:30 at the Third Life Studio in Somerville, MA
  • The St Andrews New Music Ensemble, conducted by Bede Williams, will premiere Conversation, with words by Eleonore Schönemaier on February 21, 2018 at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews, Scotland, as part of St Andrews New Music Week
  • Oboist James Turnbull will be performing Social sounds from whales at night on February 25, 2018 at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews, Scotland, as part of St Andrews New Music Week.
  • The Midlands Chorale, conducted by Daniel Galbreath, will be giving the official premiere of Three Summer Wassails, with texts by Forrest Pierce on March 24, 2018 at the Catholic Cathedral in Shrewsbury, UK.

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