“Me – who spends my days reading music, without an instrument, as if it were a novel by Tolst.oj, feeling the notes on mebouncing off my sternum like steel marbles”
Even without being famous and talented pianists in search of the calligraphy of passions like the protagonist of the novel Soon with fire by Roberto Cotroneo, we all know well the effect that certain music and certain songs have on us, with the notes bouncing off us and, in some cases, making us bounce. The point lies precisely in that apparent rhythmic arbitrariness, for which also Charles Darwin he didn’t think he could give a convincing explanation: “But if you ask yourself why musical tones in a certain order and rhythm bring pleasure to humans and other animalsi, we could not give a more convincing explanation than we are able to give for the pleasantness of certain smells and tastes.”
Really the predilection for certain tones and rhythms is as arbitrary as the appreciation for the floral notes of a perfume or the taste of mint and chocolate ice cream (which, by the way, is the most divisive ice cream flavor I’ve ever come across )? Or they could exist biological reasonspotentially innate and shared by multiple species, able to explain certain musical preferences among animals?
Humans tend to perceive better and synchronize with rhythms around 120-140 beats per minute (BPM), which are also the signature beats of big hit songs like Coldplay’s Viva la vida or Michael Jackson’s Beat it. To better understand the origins of this rhythmic success two hypotheses can be formulated: the first is connected to the body structure and the consequent characteristics of the movements, for which the optimal human rhythm could, for example, be determined by the typical frequency of a walk and would therefore be very different from the optimal rhythm of another much smaller animal, such as a rat, which with its short legs could hardly keep up with human legs. The second hypothesis instead calls into question the brain and especially the speed with which information is processed in the auditory cortex, opening the way to the possibility that rhythmic preferences are independent of the structural characteristics of each animal’s body and therefore, very fascinatingly, perhaps shared among multiple species.
Some researchers of theTokyo Universityin addition to having elaborated these initial hypotheses, they then thought of specific experiments, involving rodents and humans as experimental subjects, to see which of the hypothesized mechanisms was really at work.
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