Chimpanzees like music with a different beat

Psychological research with chimpanzees such as Tara has found that they like listening to African and Indian music.
Image credit: Primate Research Centre, Emory University
Date:19 August 2014 Tags:,

While preferring silence to music from the West, chimpanzees apparently like to listen to the different rhythms of music from Africa and India, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Said study co-author Dr Frans de Waal of Emory University: “Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures’ music. We used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties.” The idea of the experiment, it was explained, was to “highlight the importance of sampling across the gamut of human music to potentially identify features that could have a shared evolutionary root”.

When African and Indian music was played near their large outdoor enclosures, the chimps spent significantly more time in areas where they could best hear the music. When Japanese music was played, they were more likely to be found in spots where it was more difficult or impossible to hear the music. The African and Indian music in the experiment had extreme ratios of strong to weak beats, whereas the Japanese music had regular strong beats – typical of Western music.

“Chimpanzees may perceive the strong, predictable rhythmic patterns as threatening, as chimpanzee dominance displays commonly incorporate repeated rhythmic sounds such as stomping, clapping and banging objects,” explained De Waal.

For more “Tech watch” snippets, get your hands on PM’s September 2014 issue – on sale 18 August.