Karen Hopkins: It’s 60 Seconds of Science from Scientific American. I’m Karen Hopkins.
Hopkins: Ever notice how some music really makes you want to dance?
Well, a new study shows that it really has something to do with the bass. Because researchers found that during a concert, boosting the bass increased the boogie.This result Appears in Current Biology.
Daniel Cameron: Music and musical rhythms have fascinated me for a long time since I was a kid. Especially how they make us feel.
Hopkins: daniel cameron is a postdoctoral fellow at McMaster University. He also plays the drums.
Cameron: As a drummer, you’re interested in making the crowd want to move and feel good, and give the feeling of a good time. It’s about what I do in the sciences.
Hopkins: Cameron and his colleagues wanted to understand how music could create an almost irrepressible urge to make us feel our bodies moving.
Cameron: We know from anecdotal and other experimental evidence that there is a connection between bass and dance.
Hopkins: As a result, people who enjoy electronic dance music, or EDM, report that the buzzing bass creates a feeling that makes them want to move. Some research has shown that our movements are more refined when we lock onto bass notes.
Cameron: So, for example, if you have people tap along with a series of tones, they’ll tap slightly more accurately, they’ll be more in sync… when those tones are low in frequency compared to the frequency.
Hopkins: Therefore, the researchers set out to determine:
Cameron: If you put more bass in the music, does it cause more dancing?
Hopkins: Now, they don’t want to manipulate the bass line in obvious ways. Because then people might make a conscious decision to step up and get out there.
Cameron: That might be fun…
Hopkins: But it also confounds the results…like someone in a drug trial knowing they’re getting the real deal and not a placebo.
Cameron: So we wanted to do a subtle manipulation, a very conscious and imperceptible manipulation.
Hopkins: So they came up with a set of very, very low frequency speakers.
Cameron: These are specialized speakers. Kind of like a subwoofer. People may have a subwoofer as part of a stereo system. These speakers play even lower frequencies than most systems can. Even lower frequencies than we can usually hear.
Hopkins: The researchers set up special speakers and played a concert.
Hopkins: This is LIVE…LIVE…for large interactive virtual environments. It is like a cross between a performance space and a laboratory.
Cameron: People who come to watch the show are fans of this group. They want to see EDM. They want to dance. While they were there, we asked them if they would like to volunteer for our experiments. And a lot of people signed up.
Hopkins: Recruits adorn themselves with headbands with motion-capture reflectors…researchers use it to track their movements.
Cameron: And then what we do is, during the concert, we turn on these very low-frequency speakers, let them turn on for two and a half minutes, and then turn them off. Let them rest for two and a half minutes. Start over for two and a half minutes. Rest for two and a half minutes. switch off. The whole concert.
Hopkins: Now you can’t hear sound when the speakers are on. And…according to surveys filled out after the performance…and subsequent research on the manipulated audio clips…concert audiences couldn’t either. But their feet sure knew something was wrong.
Cameron: We found, by looking at the motion capture data, that when the subwoofer is on, people just move more—they cover more ground and move faster. So that’s telling us… that extra bass, these very, very low frequencies, is causing more movement.
Hopkins: About 12% move and slot. So, the concert…and the experiment…was a success. the best…
Cameron: People love this concert. And…the more people are moved, the more they enjoy the concert.
Hopkins: This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Cameron: Dancing and having fun really go hand in hand. It’s something we love to do with music, it’s a pleasing response, and we show through this work that the bass is part of the mix.
Hopkins: Next, Cameron said he wanted to see if bass could help bring us together.
Cameron: So if people have some experience with synchronized movements, they’re more likely to feel good about each other and help each other out. Dancing is a great, fun way to do this. This may have something to do with why we find dance in all cultures and throughout human history. It’s a basic part of being human.
Hopkins: So, to reduce conflict, maybe just crank up the bass and cut the dance floor.
Hopkins: For Scientific American’s 60 Seconds of Science, I’m Karen Hopkins.
Above is the transcript of the podcast.