The non-human primate world might be more musical than we tend to think. Squirrel monkey calls are so high pitched and musical sounding that, to an untrained ear, they sound like bird songs. Chimpanzees drum on tree roots in the wild.
"My colleagues and I built some primate drum devices, basically tough musical instruments specifically designed for chimpanzees: they are electronic, so can produce virtually any sound when played," Ravignani said.
He added, "We already pilot-tested these electronic drums in a group of chimpanzees, and the animals' enthusiasm in using them to produce sounds spurred us to continue on this line of research."
Ravignani said they plan to collect sounds from chimpanzees and look for musical structures within.
Charles Snowdon, a professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the monkey study findings make sense.
"I think that the ability to produce and understand organized sound has been a trait of primates for a long time and, by this definition, many song birds can also be included, meaning that aspects of the origins of music can extend quite far back in evolution," Snowdon said.