The fact that monkeys prefer silence suggests that humans' music responses may reflect evolutionary selection for cognitive processes linked to emotion and motivation. Here is the brief review from the Random Samples section of the Aug. 3 issue of Science:
Cognitive scientists Joshua McDermott of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and Marc Hauser of Harvard University put tamarins and marmosets in an apparatus with two chambers, each rigged to play music whenever an animal entered. In one experiment, the musical choices were a flute lullaby (65.26 beats per minute) and Alec Empire's electronic techno hit "Nobody Gets Out Alive" (369.23 beats per minute). The monkeys spent an average of about two-thirds of their time on the lullaby side, showing that they prefer slower tempos. But when given the choice of silence, lullabies, or a Mozart concerto, they spent most of their time avoiding music altogether. A similar experiment with eight humans showed a distinct preference for music--especially lullabies--over silence, the authors report in the September issue of Cognition.
"The observations suggest that only humans have a natural, or innate, inclination to engage with music," says Isabelle Peretz of the University of Montreal in Canada, who has concluded from studies of people with amusia (tone deafness) that humans have special brain pathways for music (Science, 1 June 2001, p. 1636). McDermott and Hauser--who earlier found that monkeys have no preference between harmonious and dissonant music--suggest that humans' music responses may reflect a "unique evolutionary history of selection" for cognitive processes linked to emotion and motivation.