Researchers Find Undetectable Low Frequency Sounds Increased Dancing at Live Concert

November 13, 2022

HAMILTON, ONTARIO — Researchers studying how different aspects of music influence the body turned a live electronic music concert into a lab study. By introducing levels of bass over speakers that were too low to hear and monitoring the crowd’s movements, scientists found that people danced 11.8 percent more when the very low frequency bass was present.

The study appears Monday in the journal Current Biology.

“I’m trained as a drummer, and most of my research career has been focused on the rhythmic aspects of music and how they make us move. Music is a biological curiosity–it doesn’t reproduce us, it doesn’t feed us, and it doesn’t shelter us, so why do humans like it and why do they like to move to it?”

–Daniel Cameron, PhD, lead author and neuroscientist

Cameron conducts research at the McMaster LIVELab, which connects science with live performance in a unique research theater. It is equipped with 3D motion capture, a Meyer sound system that can replicate various concert environments, and enhanced speakers that can produce extremely low frequencies, so low they were undetectable to the human ear.

For this study, Cameron and colleagues recruited participants attending a LIVELab concert for electronic musical duo Orphx. The concertgoers were equipped with motion-sensing headbands to monitor their dance moves. Additionally, they were asked to fill out survey forms before and after the event. These forms were used to ensure the sound was undetectable, measure concert enjoyment, and examine how the music felt physically.

(A) Orphx performing at the LIVELab. (B) Audience during the concert. (C) Spectral power in concert audio during Very Low Frequency (VLF) VLF ON (orange) and OFF (blue). (D) Waveforms of the concert audio (top) and the VLFs (bottom) from the 55-minute period of data collection. (E) Differences in audience participants’ normalized movement (VLF ON – OFF) and group mean (black horizontal bar). (F) Participant performance in the VLF detection experiment.

Throughout the 45-minute concert, the researchers manipulated the very-low bass-playing speakers, turning them on and off every two minutes. They found the amount of movement was 12 per cent greater when the speakers were on.

**read the full story on the McMaster website here

Source: McMaster, Current Biology

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