Tags: distortion | dissonant | mind

Dissonant Music Evokes ‘Animal’ Instincts

Friday, 15 June 2012 01:26 PM

Rock guitar distortion. Dissonant atonal music. Screeching horror film soundtracks. There’s a reason all three send chills down your spine and may make you uncomfortable, fearful or excited, according to a new study of the psychological impacts of music.
Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles have found distorted, dissonant and jarring music is so evocative because it is closely related to distress calls in animals.
Their findings, reported in the journal Biology Letters, suggest such music “exploit[s] our evolved predispositions to get excited and have negative emotions when hearing certain sounds."
"Music that shares aural characteristics with the vocalizations of distressed animals captures human attention and is uniquely arousing," said Daniel Blumstein, one of the study's authors and chair of the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Co-research Greg Bryant, an assistant professor of communication studies at UCLA and musician who specializes in vocal communication and evolutionary psychology, put it this way: "This study helps explain why the distortion of rock 'n' roll gets people excited: It brings out the animal in us."
The study findings are based on a series of experiments Blumstein conducted with Bryant and Peter Kaye, a Santa Monica–based composer of movie and television scores. Using synthesizers, Kaye and Bryant composed several short pieces of music of varying styles – ranging from generic and emotionally neutral “elevator music” to more jarring, dissonant and distorted pieces.
UCLA students were asked to listen to and rate each piece on how arousing it was and whether the emotional feeling in the music was positive (happy) or negative (fear-inducing or sad). When the music featured distortion, students found it more exciting and charged with negative emotion.
The researchers concluded the effect of listening to music with distortion is similar to hearing the cries of animals in distress. They also believe their study is the first to incorporate what scientists know about animal communication into the study of music perception.
Future UCLA studies are planned to test how different types of music affect a listener's nervous system, heart rates and other physiological changes.
"We need to study this more to understand the physiological mechanisms by which this works," Kaye said.

© HealthDay

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Distorted, jarring music provokes psychological responses similar to distress calls for animals.
Friday, 15 June 2012 01:26 PM
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