Born to rock

It’s now a known fact that even kids know how to rock ‘n’ roll but, wait, have you heard the one about babies? No, this is not a joke, but a reality check. Parag Kamani tells more...
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Updated on Feb 24, 2009 08:42 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByThat’s music biz | Parag Kamani

It’s now a known fact that even kids know how to rock ‘n’ roll but, wait, have you heard the one about babies? No, this is not a joke, but a reality check that arrives from a combined study from the Hungarian Academy Of Sciences and the University Of Amsterdam that recently demonstrated that even babies can detect the beat in music.

Tap your feet
As far fetched –– or scary –– as it may appear, the rationale behind the study is based on a known fact in medical parlance that goes by the name of beat induction. Essentially, it’s a nomenclature that explains that even if you have difficulty in picking out a beat in a piece of music, you could still tap your feet or clap while listening to it.
The study under reference featured 14 babies, aged between 37 weeks to 40 weeks, who were hooked up to a non-invasive brain scanner, and their brain activity was monitored as they slept to the sounds of recorded music.

Baby learns to rock
The music consisted of bass and snare drums, and cymbals, which produced four beat variations ranging from rhythm and blues to rock ‘n’ roll. If you thought that the ‘test’ for the babies ended at that, think again. Of the 306 consecutive drum sequences, one of every ten was intentionally omitted. So what have you? The babies’ brains actually identified, correctly, every time the beat was missed.

The study is relevant for several reasons. One, it establishes that there is no one from the animal planet who can recognise beats. Two, while rhythms are identified by infants a few months after birth when parents begin to harmonise lullabies, this is the first time that research shows that beats can be recognised at a more impressionable age.

This is surely fascinating information for any parent, including me, often justifying the inherent musical creativity that a child shows when they listen to music on TV or nowadays, as my three year old has proved, on the cell phone. Scientists who have been researching foetuses are certain that music perception develops either from listening to a mother’s heartbeat and/or through listening to her voice when mother’s talk to them.

Check it out
In support, it is worth checking out a book called Babies Make Music that is accompanied by a CD and is available as an import on various Indian websites. This book allows parents to help develop musical skills in their infants through over 30 songs and lessons that provide interactive musical learning.

So next time you see a baby smile, look beyond their happiness; simply check the song that’s being played and you’ll find yourself not only rocking, but rolling too.

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