What’s the Difference Between a Montreal Hipster and a Pygmy in the Congo? When It Comes to Music, Science Says “Not As Much As You’d Think.”

The appeal and reaction to music is universal.  Brad forwarded this science article about the cross-cultural power of music.

Whether you are a Pygmy in the Congolese rainforest or a hipster in downtown Montreal, certain aspects of music will touch you in exactly the same ways. A team of researchers from McGill University, Technische Universität Berlin, and l’Université de Montréal arrived at this conclusion after travelling deep into the rainforest to play music to a very isolated group of people, the Mbenzélé Pygmies, who live without access to radio, television or electricity. They then compared how the Mbenzélé responded both to their own and to unfamiliar Western music, with the way that a group of Canadians (in not-so-remote downtown Montreal) responded to the same pieces.

The researchers explain, in a recent article in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, that although the groups felt quite differently about whether specific pieces of music made them feel good or bad, their subjective and physiological responses to how exciting or calming they found the music to be appeared to be universal.

The researchers arrived at this conclusion by playing 19 short musical extracts (11 western and 8 Pygmy) of between about 30 and 90 seconds to forty Pygmies in the Congo and then to forty Canadians in Montreal. Because all the Mbenzélé Pygmies sing regularly for ceremonial purposes, the Canadians who were recruited for the study were all either amateur or professional musicians.

Cool, huh?  Keep reading.

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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