Posted in biology, communication and networking, music

Monkey music

A cellist worked with a scientist to compose music that he thought might be soothing or exciting to tamarnin monkeys. And it (apparently) worked!

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Music may have charms to “soothe the savage breast,” but that doesn’t mean the same music that soothes humans will charm other species. Monkeys, for example, aren’t much affected by human music.

To find out whether any kind of music could affect a monkey’s mood, a musician and a primatologist created tunes tailor-made for cotton-top tamarins. They report that the experiment worked – but the melodies are unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

The music that mellows out a monkey consists of long, high-pitched tones that sound squeaky to human ears. “To me, that sounds like fingers scratching on a blackboard,” said Charles Snowdon, a primate researcher from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

At the other extreme, the monkeys’ equivalent of a thriller-movie soundtrack sounds like a fast-stuttering engine, overlaid with string-quartet screeches.

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Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.