What is it about Jimi Hendrix that so many people find appealing?
According to scientists at UCLA, it's all in the music – or rather, the dissonance in that music: the unexpected, jarring, almost distorted jamming of Hendrix’s guitar.
That sound is very much like the alarm calls of animals and the screams of people.
The researchers found that humans respond to that dissonant sound. They become excited. And it’s likely because they react to that sound like they might an alarm call.
The research appears in this week's journal Biology Letters.
Daniel Blumstein, professor and chairman of UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, said he got onto the topic by “listening to my inner marmot … as everybody should.”
Blumstein studies marmot behavior and communication. He said that when he removed baby marmots from their mothers, they’d elicit “these terrible, horrible screams.”
It got him thinking about dissonance and nonlinearities in sound – like when someone blows too hard on a trumpet and it goes brrrammpppp, or when you turn a stereo up too loud.
“The sound breaks; it becomes unpredictable,” he said.
After giving a public lecture about animal calls, Blumstein was approached by a graduate student who suggested that filmmakers have capitalized on this for decades, putting dissonant music into scores when something exciting or terrible is about to happen.