Monkeys need special music for…monkeys

I enjoyed this story:

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.

There are MP3s at the link (enjoy!) and I discuss related themes — how it matters if we make philosophic aesthetics more empirical — in one chapter in Create Your Own Economy.  Hat tip goes to Christian Bok.


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