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Journal Article

Categorical rhythms in a singing primate

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Ravignani,  Andrea
Comparative Bioacoustics, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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De Gregorio, C., Valente, D., Raimondi, T., Torti, V., Miaretsoa, L., Friard, O., et al. (2021). Categorical rhythms in a singing primate. Current Biology, 31, R1363-R1380. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.032.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-66CD-E
Abstract
What are the origins of musical rhythm? One approach to the biology and evolution of music consists in finding common musical traits across species. These similarities allow biomusicologists to infer when and how musical traits appeared in our species1 . A parallel approach to the biology and evolution of music focuses on finding statistical universals in human music2 . These include rhythmic features that appear above chance across musical cultures. One such universal is the production of categorical rhythms3 , defined as those where temporal intervals between note onsets are distributed categorically rather than uniformly2 ,4 ,5 . Prominent rhythm categories include those with intervals related by small integer ratios, such as 1:1 (isochrony) and 1:2, which translates as some notes being twice as long as their adjacent ones. In humans, universals are often defined in relation to the beat, a top-down cognitive process of inferring a temporal regularity from a complex musical scene1 . Without assuming the presence of the beat in other animals, one can still investigate its downstream products, namely rhythmic categories with small integer ratios detected in recorded signals. Here we combine the comparative and statistical universals approaches, testing the hypothesis that rhythmic categories and small integer ratios should appear in species showing coordinated group singing3 . We find that a lemur species displays, in its coordinated songs, the isochronous and 1:2 rhythm categories seen in human music, showing that such categories are not, among mammals, unique to humans3