Monkeys ‘groove to Metallica’s heavy metal music’

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WASHINGTON - Monkeys prefer silence to Mozart, but they are big fans of heavy metal music, in particular Metallica, a new study has found.

Music is a sure-shot way to influence human emotions. However, nonhuman primates scarcely respond to human music, and instead prefer silence.

Now, a new report by Charles Snowdon, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and musician David Teie of the University of Maryland has shown that a monkey called the cotton-top tamarin indeed responds to music.

And the catch here is: the South American monkeys are essentially immune to human music, but they respond appropriately to “monkey music,” 30-second clips composed by Teie on the basis of actual monkey calls.

In the study, the music was inspired by sounds the tamarins make to convey two opposite emotions: threats and/or fear, and affiliation, a friendly, safe and happy condition.

The group of cottontop tamarins were played a variety of music, including Bach, Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis, but they only reacted when heavy metal rock songs by Metallica were played.

The study, published this week (Sept. 1) in the journal Biology Letters, reported that the monkeys could tell the difference: For five minutes after hearing fear music, the monkeys displayed more symptoms of anxiety and increased their movement. In contrast, monkeys that heard “affiliative” music reduced their movements and increased their feeding behavior, both signs of a calming effect.

Monkeys interpret rising and falling tones differently than humans. Oddly, their only response to several samples of human music was a calming response to the heavy-metal band Metallica.

Non-human primates don’t seem to appreciate human music, Snowdon said, although research has suggested they prefer Mozart to rock music and silence to Mozart.

The study opens a new window into animal communication, Snowdon said.

“People have looked at animal communication in terms of conveying information - ‘I am hungry,’ or ‘I am afraid.’ But it’s much more than that. These musical elements are inducing a relatively long-term change in behavior of listeners. The affiliative music is making them calmer; they move less, eat and drink at a higher rate, and show less anxiety behavior,” the expert said. (ANI)

Filed under: Monkey

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