Home of authentic species-specific music: the NY Times #1 idea of 2009



Science / For the scientifically inclined

The basis of the theory of species-specific music was formed from ideas that were to be included in a series of lecture demonstrations that David was preparing on musical interpretation. In the investigation of the subject, he discovered that much music is tailored to human perception, limbic response, vocalizations, and environment. After two years of research and deduction he felt that he had completed a comprehensive model of the pathways and elements of music and had correlated each of the distinguishable characteristics of music with a naturally occurring emotional trigger. For the purposes of this investigation, “emotional response” is understood as any response generated in the structures of the limbic system. From the slight pip of “ahah” that results from pattern recognition to the startle/terror of hearing an extremely near and loud scream, all such responses are included as triggers in music and, as such, are defined in the context of these investigations to be emotional responses. The evolutionary role of emotional response is understood to be determinately equivalent to physiological evolution. In other words: it is assumed that every emotional response has been placed by natural selection to provide for the survival and propagation of our hunting/foraging ancestors. This qualification proved to be an important key to the discovery of the causes for emotional responses to some elements of music.

The scientific foundation of species-specific music rests on discoveries about the fundamental nature of music and about differences among mammalian species in the perception and processing of sound. All mammals are born with templates of sound (primarily connected to emotionally generated vocalizations) that are recognized by the limbic structures in the brain that govern emotional response. Many of these templates come as “standard equipment” and are not always learned, as demonstrated by the observation of a monkey that had been raised in isolation reacting appropriately the first time it heard an alarm call from one of its own species. We humans are built similarly. If someone were to scream in your presence your heart rate would increase; there is no way for you to prevent it. You would not, however, respond similarly to the alarm call of a squirrel. Study of the parameters and characteristics of the natural tempos, developmental environment, and vocalizations of a given species gives us a basis for music that engenders appropriate responses from that species.

Research Results: Many previous experiments on animal response to music composed for humans (hereinafter, “human music”) have been conducted, but none of these studies had demonstrated significant responses. Very recently a study of the effect of human music on cotton-topped tamarin monkeys was conducted at Harvard. The tamarins showed a slight preference for Mozart over German “techno” music, but preferred silence to either. This study was consistent with the findings of all previous studies: animals are largely indifferent to human music.

We performed tests at the University of Wisconsin on the same species of tamarins, using response to human music as our experimental control as well as comparison with baseline readings. Included in the observed behaviors were: locomotion, vocalization, scent marking, female solicitation, foraging, and orientation toward the speaker. As with all previous studies, the tamarins showed a lack of interest in the human music. By contrast, the effect on them of the species-specific music composed by David Teie was remarkably clear and convincing. They displayed a marked increase of activity in response to the music that was designed to excite them, while the “tamarin ballad” music induced a significant calming. This calming effect was measured against the baseline of silence; they moved and vocalized less and orientated more toward the audio speakers during and immediately following the playing of the tamarin ballad.

Following are quotes from a research paper about these experiments that will soon be submitted for publication. The psychologist Charles Snowdon, who conducted the testing and authored these statements, is a highly respected but extremely cautious and skeptical scientist not normally given to making sweeping statements:

“Our predictions were supported. Music composed for tamarins had a much greater effect on the behavior of tamarins than music composed for humans. …tamarins displayed significant behavioral change only to the music that was specifically composed for them and were unaffected by human music.”

To the best of our knowledge, this marks the first time that an art form has been shown by scientific test and observation to engender the measurable appreciation of any species other than human.


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