Ant Music (and the rhythm of the universe)

Since we started on ‘The Ant Experiment’ I’ve been thinking about what ant music might sound like. Now you are probably saying, what are you talking about, why do you think ants hear music? Well, the concept of music being a universal language is not a new one of course, but I’d carry the concept much further. I’d go so far as to say music is a fundamental characteristic of any sentient being, maybe even any living organism.

Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. There is a relatively new field of research called Biomusicology that seeks to understand the evolutionary advantage of music in humans and the connection to other organisms such as birds and whales.

This concept has been taken even further in the realm of science fiction. Music as the fabric of the universe, a fundamental language that will ultimately allow communication with alien species, was beautifully illustrated in this scene from Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’

The ‘universality’ of music has been something I’ve pondered for some time. Clearly there are many different musical styles throughout the globe and some of these challenge my understanding as a native ‘Western’ music listener. However recent research has led to the discovery of patterns of similarity in musics of all cultures when considered from a three dimensional perspective. Could it be that this is the first insight into music as a fundamental characteristic of all living organisms?

Well, perhaps it’s scientific evidence, but it’s something the Ancient Greeks hypothesized starting with Pythagoras.

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”

And followed up by Plato:

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

Clearly, the ancient Greeks were already headed in the direction of music as a fundamental characteristic of living organisms.

So what about ants? Well, ants exhibit a form of emergent or distributed intelligence, so it’s conceivable they also ‘hear’ music. Of course, ants don’t have ears, but then again, Beethoven had no use of his when he wrote the 9th Symphony. Music, as any musician or composer will tell you, is as much an internal experience as it is an external one. So what is the ant musical experience? Well as much as I love the blast from the past, it’s probably not this:

When I think about ant music, for some reason I hear Varèse, Stockhausen or Ligeti:

Maybe the ant musical experience is more ambient, in tune with the world around them, ambient in the Brian Eno Style:

This recording from the CD Broken Hearted Dragonflies offers up an interesting possibility.

While this recording could easily be written off as noise, there is a distinctive pattern and rhythm that cycles repeatedly. It has a minimalistic feel that reminds me of Steve Reich:

Of course, there are likely many opinions about what ant music might be. A recent poster to a discussion of ‘The Ant Experiment’ on Rock, Paper, Shotgun shared this:

somini says:
Music by The Prodigy.
Make it happen!

Ok yeah, that makes sense too.

So let me put it out there: What’s Ant Music to you?



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John Mark Seck

About John Mark Seck

John Mark Seck is President and CEO of BlackCherry. John oversees the company's overall direction and strategy. As a producer, John has more than 15 years experience in the creative industries including, game development, new media and television. He loves exploring the potential for games and new media to tell rich and compelling stories.

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