On the Psychoacoustics of the Vulpes vulpes (Red fox)

 By Mitchell Harris

Sophomore, Mathematics Major

The most difficult part of learning is asking the right questions. After 96 years of children learning the sounds of the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm, only now has Ylvis finally considered what sound the fox makes.

The Fox picture (billboard.com)

It seems rather plausible that the fox says “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding,” but then other sounds such as “Joff-tchoff-trchoffo-tchoff-tchoff” are posited as possibilities. Just as in any science, it is difficult to determine with certainty the answers to questions. Philosophically, the explicit answer to the question is not what we are interested in; rather, we want to know the meaning and tone behind what the fox says, which are cogently presented by Ylvis.

According to an anonymous music major and honors student, the classic four-note progression repeated throughout the entire song is typical of most pop songs. Logically, it follows that the fox’s sound should be popular since, as demonstrated by Ylvis, it communicates with the same notes as much pop music. The music is also an earworm, which implies that the fox’s voice would get stuck in your head.

The fox is a mysterious creature, a trait echoed by the camera work throughout the video. The lighting transitions in the video from open and bright to dark and mysterious. The rack focus here and there when it cuts back to the original scene signifies that the world we live in is not as clear as we think it is. When the song discusses the fox being a guardian angel, a low angle shot makes the singers appear to be floating. This is probably a mistake because angels float, not people.

Another possible scientific error by Ylvis is the hypothesis that foxes can communicate by mo-o-o-o-orse with a ho-o-o-o-orse. Morse code is a human invention, so his question is as ridiculous as asking the fox if it speaks English. An old man making fox noises while reading a story book to a child in the middle of the forest, crazy people dancing with strobe lights flashing colors, and a random CGI fox appearing in the background and making a beat is more easy visualized if you use your imagination (or watch the video).

While YouTube user Kade Rasmussen asks, “What … did I just watch?” and FourthSanctum claims that “This is why aliens won’t visit us,” perhaps not enough consideration has been given to the insight of what sound the fox makes. Honors student Kelena Klippel believes this line of inquiry is important, as she has a keen interest in animal mating calls. A possible continuation for research includes, “If the fox says something in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still go ‘Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding’?” Conceivably more interesting is whether any fish actually say “blub.”

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