Why Do We Enjoy Rocking And Rolling?
John Neumann for redOrbit.com
When in distress, animals force a large amount of air through their voice box very quickly, producing a discordant effect designed to grab the attention and provoke an emotional response in other animals, reports The Telegraph’s Nick Collins.
In other words, screaming and yelling gets your attention.
Similar patterns of sound from recordings such as Hendrix’s distorted version of Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969, sends a reaction down your spine because we are programmed to react strongly to the harsh noise, researchers said.
A similar effect is generated from discordant music associated with horror films, think the screeching soundtrack to the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. However, more even-toned, generic, “elevator music” lacks such jolting changes in sound or volume and do not create the same effect.
Dissonant music also stirs up strong emotions, usually linked to negative feelings like fear or sadness rather than happy memories, researchers noted.
Greg Bryant, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and one of the study authors, said, “This study helps explain why the distortion of rock-and-roll gets people excited: It brings out the animal in us.”
“Composers have intuitive knowledge of what sounds scary without knowing why. What they usually don’t realize is that they’re exploiting our evolved predispositions to get excited and have negative emotions when hearing certain sounds.”
This theory was tested by composing several 10-second pieces of original music which were either designed to be generic and emotionally neutral throughout, or to begin in “easy listening” style before suddenly becoming distorted.
Student volunteers were subjected to both types of music and found the distorted music more exciting and more charged with negative emotion. In a follow-up study the same compositions were set to emotionally neutral video clips such as people walking or taking a sip from a coffee cup.
A separate group of volunteers did not find the jarring music more arousing, while perceiving it to be more negative, showing that the bland film “did not trump the emotional content of the music,” researchers said.