Maybe it’s not just Zack de la Rocha’s lyrics that provoke Rage Against The Machine fans to incite riots. A recent study shows that it’s now looking like Tom Morello‘s screeching guitars could be to blame for making us angry.
A study published in the Journal of Biology Letters, within UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, found that distorted and/or jarring music shares the same characteristics as distress calls in animals.
Daniel Blumstein, co-author of the paper, tells the UK’s Daily Mail, “Music that shares aural characteristics with the vocalizations of distressed animals captures human attention and is uniquely arousing.”
Researchers believe that the effect of listening to music with distortion is similar to hearing the cries of animals in distress.
Using synthesizers, the researchers created a series of 10 second musical pieces highlighting several “conditions.” “We wanted to see if we could enhance or suppress the listener’s feelings based on what’s going on with the music,” said Blumstein.
Undergraduates, used as subjects, were played ten musical “conditions.” Their responses were rated from positive (happy) to negative (sad or angry).
When the music featured distortion, subjects rated it as more exciting than the those clips without distortion. Most importantly, they were more likely to describe the music as charged with negative emotion.
Further research employed the use of video as a distraction. Could video lessen the impact of distorted music? Researchers played “minimally evocative” video clips paired with music they had proven to cause “negative” emotions. Bryant explained, “The video eliminated how exciting the distorted-sounding music seemed, but it didn’t trump the emotional content of the music.”
“This study helps explain why the distortion of rock ‘n’ roll gets people excited: It brings out the animal in us,’ said Bryant
Tom Morello should be proud.
— Jay Tilles, CBS Local