Monday, May 27, 2024

Ancient origins of aspects of instrumental and song melodies distinctive from those of language.

 A global collaboration from many cultures shows that songs and instrumental melodies are slower and higher and use more stable pitches than speech, suggesting evolutionary origins universal to all humans that cannot simply be explained by culture. The numerous samples of music collected could be arranged in a musi-linguistic continuum from instrumental music to spoken language.

Both music and language are found in all known human societies, yet no studies have compared similarities and differences between song, speech, and instrumental music on a global scale. In this Registered Report, we analyzed two global datasets: (i) 300 annotated audio recordings representing matched sets of traditional songs, recited lyrics, conversational speech, and instrumental melodies from our 75 coauthors speaking 55 languages; and (ii) 418 previously published adult-directed song and speech recordings from 209 individuals speaking 16 languages. Of our six preregistered predictions, five were strongly supported: Relative to speech, songs use (i) higher pitch, (ii) slower temporal rate, and (iii) more stable pitches, while both songs and speech used similar (iv) pitch interval size and (v) timbral brightness. Exploratory analyses suggest that features vary along a “musi-linguistic” continuum when including instrumental melodies and recited lyrics. Our study provides strong empirical evidence of cross-cultural regularities in music and speech.

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