This music video is called African Traditional Music.
Chimps shun music of West and Japan in favour of African, Indian… or peace and quiet
Chimpanzees prefer silence to listening to Western-style music, but they do like a bit of African or Indian rhythm, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
Not that the researchers want to be divisive.
“Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures’ music,” said study co-author Frans de Waal of Emory University. “We used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties.
“Past research has focused only on Western music and has not addressed the very different acoustic features of non-Western music.
“While non-human primates have previously indicated a preference of music choices, they have consistently chosen silence over the types of music previously tested.”
Previous research has also found that some non-human primates prefer slower tempos, but the current findings may be the first to show that they display a preference for particular rhythmic patterns, according to the study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.
“Although Western music, such as pop, blues and classical, sound different to the casual listener, they all follow the same musical and acoustic patterns. Therefore, by testing only different Western music, previous research has essentially replicated itself,” the authors wrote.
Sixteen adult chimps in two groups participated in the experiment at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University.
Over 12 consecutive days for 40 minutes each morning, the groups were given the opportunity to listen to African, Indian or Japanese music playing on a portable stereo near their outdoor enclosure.
Another portable stereo not playing any music was located at a different spot near the enclosure to rule out behaviour that might be associated with an object rather than the music.
The different types of music were at the same volume but played in random order.
Each day, researchers observed the chimps and recorded their location every two minutes with handwritten notes. They also videotaped the activity in the enclosure.
The researchers found that 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, which is also 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,” said de Waal.
“Displaying a preference for music over silence is compelling evidence that our shared evolutionary histories may include favouring sounds outside of both humans’ and chimpanzees’ immediate survival cues,” said lead author Morgan Mingle of Emory and Southwestern University in Austin.
“Our study highlights the importance of sampling across the gamut of human music to potentially identify features that could have a shared evolutionary root.”
Nature and nurture seem to contribute equally to chimpanzee intelligence, @Sara_Reardon reports: here.
A long-term study of chimpanzees living in the Budongo Forest of Uganda has revealed two instances of the social transmission of new tool-making skills between members of the same community – the first time this has been observed in non-captive chimps: here.