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Science Says People Who Play Music Are Uniquely Intelligent (Especially Drummers!)

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Science Says People Who Play Music Are Uniquely Intelligent (Especially Drummers!)

Listen up drummers — no, really, you are going to want to hear this. Science says that you have a unique form of intelligence that is lacking in non-musicians. Also, science might even indicate that you “beat” out your other musically inclined counterparts (get it? Beat out?).

This study from July 2012 sheds some light for us.

The Experiment

People listened to music that was computer generated and music that was made by a real drum beat. The music completed by the real drummer contained small inconsistencies that were more favorable to the listeners than the computer.

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Scientists wanted to see if a computer would be able to recreate the small differences made by humans using a mathematical equation. This would “humaninze” the beat.

In order to gather data, a drummer from Ghana was recorded in the 1950s. The scientists set a metronome and had the drummer play along with the beat of the metronome.

The Results

The results showed that the drummer would occasionally get off the beat by a very small amount.

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The test showed that if a given beat from the drummer was played slightly ahead of the metronome, the beats to come were also likely to be played early. The slight outage lasted for several minutes.

When I say slight deviation, I mean less than the time it takes for a dragonfly to flap its wings. That’s not very long.

What Does This Mean?

This means that the brain of a musician seems to recognize the deviation and carry that through in a pattern to the end of the piece. They will hold the pattern in a long range correlation instead of stopping and resetting to the metronome. The brain beats to its own drum, if you will — oh, come now. I had to.

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To put it simply, musicians’ brains are able to keep time without matching to the metronome. This shows an ability to separate this task and isolate the beat made by the person. They don’t need to stop and restart like those of us with no sense of rhythm. This ability to keep time and gently correct means that they have an intelligence that others don’t have.

LRC (Long Range Correlation)

The long range correlation is present in more complex rhythms as well, in singing, pop music, and classical music. These things created by hands, feet, or voice all use this deviation from rhythm. This means that there are small deviations in the music that occur through the music. This deviation actually attracts listeners in a way that scientists can recreate with computers. To repeat: scientists with computers are unable to replicate the music to be as pleasing as the musicians were able to.

What About People With No Rhythm?

Not surprisingly, the long range correlation that drummers and other musicians use to hook listeners is missing from people who can’t keep a beat. The rhythmic timing and memory is missing. This makes the accuracy of drummers and musicians a distant dream for those (like me!) with no rhythm.

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Scientists are looking to find the mathematical laws that musicians automatically have when they self regulate the beats.

What Does This Mean In Regards To Classical Musicians?

John Clarke analyzed fluctuations in classical music as well as other types of music. He found that the melody at the end of the piece was related to other parts of the piece. This humanizing way of composing the music draws in the listener, and it seems that listeners can tell when they are being duped by computerized beats. Other experts in the Physics Today article noted that pieces from 40 different composers were studied and all were found to include long range correlations.

What Can Computers Do To Humanize The Music?

There are features that artificially generate spaces in music, causing fluctuations from random number generators. These generators tell which beats to delay. As of now, the result is not pleasurable. The music sounds jerky and bumpy, therefore not creating the desired effect on the listener. As research continues and mathematical equations applied, they may be able to find a way. As for now, there’s still nothing like the real thing.

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As the article says: To err is human. And that’s what makes our music beautiful.

Featured photo credit: Nejron Photo via shutterstock.com

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