It’s a well-established fact that tuning into “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to” turns the average person into a superhuman academic whose powers of concentration are rivaled only by headphone-wearing cartoon girls sitting at their desks during rainy days. YouTube channel Sabrina & Friends has now decided to investigate this modern miracle by applying science to the question of why the never-ending web station helps listeners focus so well.
The video sees host Sabrina Cruz digging into lo-fi by trying to create her own tracks through artificial intelligence. The results aren’t as great as Cruz had hoped for, but the work involved with the process leads her to find studies on what it is about the genre that makes it so well-suited for studying (/relaxing).
With the caveat that music affects different people in different ways, Cruz explains that the three main building blocks of a lo-fi track—jazzy instrumental, boom bap drums, and environmental noises—make it work exceptionally well as concentration audio by blocking out distracting background noise with predictable rhythms. It’s not unexciting enough music to produce a sense of tiredness, but not mentally overwhelming either. The brain finds slow, lo-fi drum loops “subconsciously predictable” and the “dampened frequencies and environmental noise” of the tracks give the impression of listening in an actual physical space (usually one that evokes feelings of comfort or nostalgia) rather than hearing a recording played directly into the ear.
For a mercifully short amount of time last year, the world was faced with the horrifying prospect of “lofi hip hop radio” signing off for all time. Cruz’s AI beats certainly aren’t a replacement for the eternal music stream, but it’s heartening at least to know that some of our top minds are out there studying the online radio station, preparing for a reoccurrence of the Great Lo-Fi Outage Of 2020 with a robot-assisted contingency plan.
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