It should really go without saying that scientific research has done some pretty impressive things. (Higgs Boson, anyone?) However, scientists are still trying to find an explanation for why people enjoy rock music, apparently, and a recent UCLA study may have solved this troubling conundrum. The study concludes that distortion in rock sounds similar to the noises an animal makes when in distress—which, as part of the animal kingdom, excites us human listeners.
The study involved having test subjects listen to a soundtrack that ranged from mellow elevator Muzak to more noisy sounds with “abrupt transitions.” Organizers asked the subjects whether the varying pieces elicited positive or negative emotions. The listeners in the experimental control group (who heard a lot of non-linear sounds) described their music as “exciting” and “negatively charged.” In a second round of experiments, they added video into the mix. The results reported that the addition of visual stimuli to “potentially fearful or arousing” sounds represses the “excited” response, meaning that while an album with lots of distortion might sound awesome, even science knows that watching a dude fool around with guitar pedals is boring.