Listen to a Drum Solo by a Chimpanzee. Is This Actual Music?

His name is Barney and as far as I know, he still lives at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in the Netherlands. In 2005, he was observed beating out this rhythm on a bucket. His meter is a bit off, but I’ve heard worse.

From CNET:

The researchers counted “685 drumbeats spread over 11 sequences for over four minutes” from Barney’s drumming. The study also says that Barney’s “focus” and his “leisurely, spaced time intervals” during his drumming showed “it was more than just a short, uncontrolled noise-making display.”

To the untrained ear, the drumming might just sound like a chimp beating on a bucket to make noise, but there are some other interesting caveats to Barney’s performance. The study asserts that Barney couldn’t have been using the bucket as a way to communicate with the other chimps in his enclosure because they weren’t within earshot. Also, the bucket had been in the enclosure for some time and therefore wasn’t a new object that Barney suddenly picked up and started playing with.

Here’s the question: was Barney actually keeping a beat? Was this a drum solo? If so, does this mean that another species is capable of making music?

And please: no drummer jokes.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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