Skip to main content

The Sound of Music!

Music is one of the most mysterious entities in the world of science. Food for your brain, but how does it work really?

I am a conservative when it comes to what kind of music I like listening to and what I presume would make me cringe. Now because I am from India, have lived in UAE and done a wee bit of roaming around the globe, I like to say I have a wide spectrum of sounds I find very pleasant.  But having said that, there are styles of music that I’d rather not venture into, and they do make it to my “no way I can ever listen to this” category.  

But a recent article forced me to listen to some pieces that although are clear candidates of my ‘cringe worthy’ music category, I really loved a few of them, and they, and in extension a few others in the category, have been regulars on my playlist off late. This really got me thinking, about how arbitrary my definition of what I find unpleasant in music really was, which further got me thinking, how arbitrary music really is, how little we know about it.

For starters, there is nothing tangible in it, a series of harmonics put together to make a longer sound. Anthropologists say that music brings together a community, binding people into one culture. Archaeologists have found some of the first musical instruments, dating back to over 57000 years, which were, even back then, fine-tuned to perfection, stating, that even then primitive man head banged at some foot tapping tune. Now that is profound!

It is believed that we like to listen to music that falls in our acoustic and vocal range. We like listening to beats and tempos that are very close to our own heartbeat. So, one may point, that music appeases the primitive side of our nature. So does this apply to other creatures, apart from us?

Well yes, studies show that music is not only restricted to the human race. Animals, too, like to listen to music, but whether theirs is what we term as ‘music’ has scientists divided. While primates like to listen to slow tempo, they are not very enthusiastic about thewhole idea of music. On the other hand however, cats and dogs prove to be at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to music. But contrary to what many pet owners believe they don’t particularly like human music. Cats swing to a song that is in tune with the frequency at which they vocalise.  In fact, a company by the name of ‘Music for cats’, sells these ‘cat tunes' online. Dogs seem to have a keen ear for the right pitch. 

But there are animals that are not just passive listeners, but musicians themselves. Humpback whales produce sounds that are closely related to the music format, we humans listen to. So in essence, a phrase, that is followed by a new one after which the old one is repeated, sounds familiar? Even birds are known to follow similar rhythmic rules when it comes to their songs. In fact, birds are known to produce songs that are in tune with human music with addition of percussion elements as well.

But do animals enjoy what they are listening to, or have any emotional response to music the way we do? Well recent studies prove that they very much have the perception of music being pleasurable, hence being able to enjoy music. In a study, in 2001, scientists in UK, looked at the effect of music on cows, and it was observed that while playing bits that were of a beat rate of 100 or lesser, cows produced up to 3 % more milk as compared to no music at all, and playing anything higher than that would result in a drop of milk production.

While there are growing revelations on whether animals like music or not, there are a few revelation of our own that we are just coming to terms with, like, not every one likes music, or has a pleasurable response to music. Scientists call this, Anhedonia, the inability of an individual to experience pleasure from an otherwise pleasurable activity- like music. And anhedonia seems to be fairly wide spread in the population. These people seems to process other reward based activities normally, music however, does not act as a reward for them. They don’t connect to music the way many people do. So the next time you have someone, saying they don’t get it- musically, don’t blame them.

Below are some links that I thought our readers would find interesting. 

Questionnaire on music


Popular posts from this blog

Do free energy magnetic motors really work?

The internet is rife with websites that promote generators that are capable of providing electricity without using any fuel. Built largely with magnets, these 'free energy generators' promise to cut your electricity bills and provide a much greener alternative to the electricity that is largely generated out of fossil fuels. Elaborate videos that give you estimates of how much money you can save without revealing any details of how to go about it, manage to keep the audience hooked on for a while, but $40 price tag, the loads of freebies and the instant $10 discount for not leaving the page, make the product and its seller highly suspicious. So, we decided to find out if these free energy magnetic motors really work?

The Principle

The magnetic motor works on the simple principle that we all already know, 'Like poles repel each other while opposite poles attract each other'. By arranging the magnets in a fashion where only like poles face each other, one can simply set t…

Why Sci-Hub’s story is so crucial to science?

On the 28th of October 2015, Judge Robert Sweet in his ruling at the New York district court declared that the website be blocked with immediate effect and managed to stop hundreds and thousands of researchers and science enthusiasts from accessing the holy grail of today’s science, the research paper.
What should be a simple means to communicate to the world one’s research findings, has become a currency of some sort. A ticket to a researcher’s professional success, a magnet for an investigator to attract funding for his lab and the elusive piece of the puzzle that the publishing group can hold you ransom for, until you cough up some good cash ($30 or above for a single article and thousands of dollars for a bundled annual subscription)
What Judge Sweet termed as a “disservice (to) public interest”, is actually a small website that allows you access to scientific research, old and new, and for free. Sci- Hub. Org, started in 2011, as a trusted place to access research …

Generating electricity from flapping tree leaves

As kids, you might have spent many afternoons, under a huge tree, enjoying its shade. In a tropical country like India, trees are a welcome sight in the month of May, when the sun is blazing in the sky and the shade offered by them is a hundred thousand times better than artificial cooling of the air conditioning units. But never in our dream would we have thought that the rustling of the tiny leaves of the trees could one day make electricity for us.Because that requires a Hendersonian moment! (just in a bit)

This brilliant idea has come from the lab of a biophysicist at Iowa State University, Dr. Michael McCloskey, whose work at the University largely involves the study of membrane transport in algae and adult born neurons but also has a background in plant sciences. It was his colleague in the department of genetics, Dr. Eric Henderson who first came up with this plan of harvesting energy from leaves as he wondered how much kinetic energy was being generated when winds blow across l…

5 things driverless cars will do to change our future?

The race for building the world’s first commercially available driverless car is on. Google seems to be leading the pack and in its own charismatic style has been very open about it. Elon Musk’s Tesla is considered the second best with their cars having almost automated the driving process. Tech favourites, Apple also seem to be in the race but everything is under wraps, as of now, and there is not even a hint of what Apple is planning to make, the car, the software or simply make the car accessible with your Apple ID.
Once part of science fiction, driverless cars will soon be a part of our lives and with major automobile manufacturers such as General Motors, Toyota, Ford investing in the technology, prototypes of driverless cars will soon be seen on the roads. Before we get there, a quick review.
The Driverless car
The concept of automated driving has been around for close to a century but progress was slow due to unavailability of technology. For a car to be autonomous, it needs to kno…

Solar cells that work in rain

In case you have read my last month’s guest post about harvesting solar energy in rust, you would be delighted to know that there has been yet another breakthrough in our attempt to harness solar energy.  For many years, solar energy has been targeted for being unavailable at night and during rains. The problem of utilizing solar energy at night can be resolved with the help of metal oxide cells as elaborated in my above post (do read it, if you have not done so already). And now researchers at the Ocean University in China have addressed the second problem and developed solar cells that can actually use rain drops to generate electricity.
Published in the German journal Angewandte Chemie, the paper titled, A Solar Cell Triggered by Sun and Rain, opens a new realm of possibilities when harnessing solar energy. Coating the solar cell with a thin film of graphene allows the cell to function even when it is raining. Graphene is nothing but reduced form of graphite that consists of a hone…