Science of dance music: it’s what’s not there that counts.

Or, as NPR clarifies, what’s not there that makes *us* want to count. With our feet. Studies of syncopation have revealed that it’s absence that makes you want to dance:

Last month neuroscientists at Aarhus University in Denmark published a study showing that danceable grooves have just the right amount of gaps or breaks in the beats. Your brain wants to fill in those gaps with body movement, says the study’s lead author, Maria Witek.

“Gaps in the rhythmic structure, gaps in the sort of underlying beat of the music — that sort of provides us with an opportunity to physically inhabit those gaps and fill in those gaps with our own bodies,” she says.

A few years ago, Witek set out to figure out which songs got people onto the dance floor.

She created an online survey and gave people drum patterns to listen to. Some had really simple rhythms with regular beats. Others had extremely complex rhythms, with lots of gaps where you’d expect beats to be. Finally there were drumming patterns that fell in the middle of those two extremes. They have a regular, predictable beat, but also some pauses or gaps.

Witek says that people all over the world agreed on which drum patterns made them most want to dance: “Not the ones that have very little complexity and not the ones that had very, very high complexity,” she says, “but the patterns that had a sort of a balance between predictability and complexity.”

Composer note: Take away that part that you hear, and people will fill it in for you.