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Friday Music Blogging September 18, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Animal Intelligence, Art and Music, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Science.
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I have always wondered why my son’s dog doesn’t care about music.

Beethoven, Coltrane, Radiohead—it doesn’t matter, he is indifferent.

Here is a study of monkeys that explains why:

Monkeys don’t care much for human music, but apparently they will groove to their own beat.

Previous experiments have shown that tamarin monkeys prefer silence to Mozart, and they don’t respond emotionally to human music the way people do. But when a psychologist and a musician collaborated to compose music based on the pitch, tone and tempo of tamarin calls, they discovered that the species-specific music significantly affected monkey behavior and emotional response.

“Different species may have different things that they react to and enjoy differently in music,” said psychologist Charles Snowdon of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who published the paper Tuesday in Biology Letters with composer David Teie of the University of Maryland. “If we play human music, we shouldn’t expect the monkeys to enjoy that, just like when we play the music that David composed, we don’t enjoy it too much.”

Indeed, the monkey music sounds shrill and unpleasant to human ears. Each of the 30-second pieces below were produced with a cello and Teie’s voice, based on specific features from recordings of tamarin monkey calls. The first “song” is based on fear calls from an upset monkey, while the second one contains soothing sounds based on the vocalizations of a relaxed animal.

If you are curious check out the “monkey music” at the linked site.

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