Monday, December 13, 2004

Humans alone may be blessed with the ability to appreciate music

Humans may be the only species in the animal kingdom who are capable of appreciating pleasant combinations of musical notes, according to researchers.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Marc Hauser of Harvard University, found after experimenting on monkeys that they are not gifted with the ability of discerning consonant tones or pleasant sounds from dissonant sounds or unpleasant, jarring noise.

For years, scientists have sought to explain why we prefer consonant sounds to dissonant ones. One theory is that our dislike of dissonance is related to the sensation of 'beats' that occur when the notes interfere.

"This is the first time that a lack of preference for consonance has been shown in primates," Isabelle Peretz, a psychologist from the University of Montreal, Canada, who studies music perception, was quoted as saying.

"I would place my bets on the fact that it's uniquely human," he added.

"If you want to look at the evolution of music it's important to do these types of studies," Laurel Trainor, a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, was quoted as saying.

She added that this research supports the idea that humans have a special preference for consonance, one of the most basic structural elements of music. This could account for the fact that as far as we know, only humans produce songs simply for enjoyment.

Story here.

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