Now for my favorite historical animal story.
In 1784 the composer Wolfgang Mozart visited a pet shop, where he heard a starling sing of song of 17 notes.
Mozart immediately bought the bird, and for the next three years the two were constant companions.
The starling would sit on Mozart’s shoulder while the composer would create his scores. Many researchers have surmised that the bird would naturally have mimicked the music. But starlings subvert what they hear, abruptly halting a song in the middle, mixing up tunes and syntax in a way that must have amused Mozart to no end.
When his beloved starling died, Mozart was inconsolable. He staged a full funeral and burial, complete with priests, and wrote a poem dedicated to his feathered friend.
Six days later, he composed “A Musical Joke” (“Ein Musikalischer Spass”). With its humorous and unorthodox musical grammar, many believe that Mozart was honoring his departed pet. And two days after that, he made a change to the finale of a concerto (K 453) he was writing.
He added the starling’s 17 notes that began their friendship.