Menu

Rhythm Arises from Random Beats in a “Telephone” Game

An experiment in which people pass each other initially nonrhythmic drumming sequences reveals the human affinity for musical patterns.

Mar 1, 2017
Diana Kwon

BEAT IT: In a lab experiment based on the “telephone” game, rhythm evolved from random tempos. © ISTOCK.COM/GOLUBOVY

EDITOR’S CHOICE IN BEHAVIOR

The paper
A. Ravignani et al., “Musical evolution in the lab exhibits rhythmic universals,” Nat Hum Behav, 1:0007, 2016.

Musical universals
Although Beethoven’s orchestral symphonies may contrast with the synthetic sounds of today’s electronic beats, music from different genres has a lot in common. In 2015, a group led by Patrick Savage of Tokyo University of the Arts found 18 musical features that consistently appeared across geographical regions.

“Broken telephone”
Six of the features were related to rhythm, and Andrea Ravignani, a postdoctoral researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, and his colleagues decided to see whether these would spontaneously emerge in the lab. They gathered 48 non-musicians to play a modified version of the “telephone” game. In groups of eight, the subjects each sequentially played their best imitation of a randomly generated drumming sequence. By the time the musical message made its way to the end, it had transformed into a predictable pattern. “We could see that [the rhythms] became more regular, more structured, more organized, easier to imitate, and converged toward all these six rhythmic universals found in world music,” Ravignani says.

Cross-culture convergence
“I think this is an elegant study in its design, [which] enables a very strong demonstration of these preferences that the brain has,” says Guy Madison of Umeå University in Sweden who was not involved in the study.

Innate biases
Ravignani believes that these stereotypical patterns may arise because of biological constraints such as limited working-memory capacity, though this has to be investigated further. He hopes to take this experiment around the world to see whether these universals emerge in other cultures, particularly in places like the Balkans, where traditional music is based on much more complex rhythmic patterns. 

April 2019

Will Car T Cells Smash Tumors?

New trials take the therapy beyond the blood

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Getting More Consistent Results by Knowing the Quality of Your Protein
Getting More Consistent Results by Knowing the Quality of Your Protein
Download this guide from NanoTemper to learn how to identify and evaluate the quality of your protein samples!
Myth Busting: The Best Way to Use Pure Water in the Lab
Myth Busting: The Best Way to Use Pure Water in the Lab
Download this white paper from ELGA LabWater to learn about the role of pure water in the laboratory and the advantages of in-house water purification!
Shimadzu's New Nexera UHPLC Series with AI and IoT Enhancements Sets Industry Standard for Intelligence, Efficiency and Design
Shimadzu's New Nexera UHPLC Series with AI and IoT Enhancements Sets Industry Standard for Intelligence, Efficiency and Design
Shimadzu Corporation announces the release of the Nexera Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatograph series, incorporating artificial intelligence as Analytical Intelligence, allowing systems to detect and resolve issues automatically. The Nexera series makes lab management simple by integrating IoT and device networking, enabling users to easily review instrument status, optimize resource allocation, and achieve higher throughput.
IDT lowers genomic barriers with powerful rhAmpSeq™ targeted sequencing system
IDT lowers genomic barriers with powerful rhAmpSeq™ targeted sequencing system
Increasing accuracy and reducing cost barriers, IDT’s innovative system delivers simple and cost-effective amplicon sequencing