Finally science confirms what Devo has been telling us for years: Rock music puts us in touch with our most basic caveman instincts. Researchers from the University of California recently published an article in Biology Letters arguing that harsh changes in pitch and frequency — like those found in a particularly blistering Ty Segall song, for instance — effect us in a similar fashion to primal calls of distress.
In the study student volunteers were subjected to two types of music, clips calming easy listening and tunes with sudden blasts of distortion. Unsurprisingly, the latter caused heightened negative and emotional responses from subjects.
The theory here is that the shrill bleat of a shredding guitar shares the same aural cues as the cries of distress we were likely to hear back when walking upright was still considered a new fad. Essentially, the jolt of adrenalin you get from a rocking solo is partially caused by the monkey part of your brain thinking a saber-toothed tiger is munching on your buddies. Or, as Dr. Greg Bryant explains, “the distortion of rock-and-roll gets people excited: It brings out the animal in us.”
The study goes on the speculate that the same principle explains why the shrill strings of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho soundtrack is so effecting at ramping up the tension for an audience. [via The Telegraph]