I Got Rhythm: The Science of Song

Who hasn’t felt the urge to sing in the shower, to chime in on the chorus of their favourite tune or belt out an anthem at a sporting event? Melodies ring out at every important human activity — from romancing mates to soothing babies, from worshipping to mourning, celebrating to protesting.

But why? Are we hardwired for music? Addicted to rhythm? What power does music have over our bodies and our brains? Scientists have only recently begun to seriously examine how and why music has such a profound effect on humans.

Some of the newest research is playing out in Canada, at musical laboratories such as LIVELab in Hamilton, Ontario, a one-of-a-kind concert hall where scientists are measuring brain waves of musicians and their audiences to determine how music creates undeniable social bonds. Archaeologists have also produced significant keys to unlocking music’s mysteries, particularly in caves of Germany’s Swabian Alps where they’ve unearthed from Ice Age sites the world’s oldest known musical instruments. These ancient flutes are surprisingly sophisticated artifacts that attest to music being played more than 40,000 years ago, by the first Homo sapiens.

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