Automatic comparison of global children's and adult songs supports a sensorimotor hypothesis for the origin of musical scales [post]

Shoichiro Sato, Joren Six, Peter Pfordresher, Shinya Fujii, Patrick E. Savage
2019 unpublished
Music throughout the world varies greatly, yet some musical features like scale structure display striking cross-cultural similarities. Are there musical laws or biological constraints that underlie this diversity? The "vocal mistuning" hypothesis proposes that cross-cultural regularities in musical scales arise from imprecision in vocal tuning, while the integer-ratio hypothesis proposes that they arise from perceptual principles based on psychoacoustic consonance. In order to test these
more » ... to test these hypotheses, we conducted automatic comparative analysis of 100 children's and adult songs from throughout the world. We found that children's songs tend to have narrower melodic range, fewer scale degrees, and less precise intonation than adult songs, consistent with motor limitations due to their earlier developmental stage. On the other hand, adult and children's songs share some common tuning intervals at small-integer ratios, particularly the perfect 5th (~3:2 ratio). These results suggest that some widespread aspects of musical scales may be caused by motor constraints, but also suggest that perceptual preferences for simple integer ratios might contribute to cross-cultural regularities in scale structure. We propose a "sensorimotor hypothesis" to unify these competing theories.
doi:10.31234/osf.io/kt7py fatcat:jdmyczbwfjhz5b3ahnyolskhsi