Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evidence of ancient human history encoded in music's complex patterns

Date:
November 19, 2013
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
Just as fragments of ancient pottery and bones offer valuable information about human history, music can also reveal clues about the past, according to new research.

In the same way that fragments of ancient pottery and bones offer valuable information about human history, music can also reveal previously hidden clues about the past, according to new research from an international team led by McMaster University psychologist Steven Brown.

The team has established for the first time that the history of human populations is embedded in music, where complex combinations of rhythm, pitch and arrangement form a code that scientists can read in a manner that can be compared to the way they read changes in human DNA and language.

"Music is an untapped migrational marker that can be used to help people understand the history of human populations," says Brown, an associate professor of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. "It adds to the whole story of human history. We need more evidence, and this is a new kind of evidence that we can add to the pot."

Brown's research team used a comparison between the mitochondrial DNA and the folk music of nine indigenous populations of Taiwan to show that each tells a similar story about the ways those populations have changed and converged over the last 6,000 years.

Mitochondrial DNA changes at a predictable rate, acting as an evolutionary clock that makes it ideal for such comparisons.

The group included researchers from Tokyo University of the Arts, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and China Medical University and Mackay Memorial Hospital, both in Taiwan. Their results are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, one of the society's biological journals.

The researchers analyzed the structures of 220 Taiwanese choral songs recorded since the 1940s. They compared the results with DNA samples taken from 1,050 subjects from different parts of the island and found that the musical results shared significant similarities to the genetic results when it came to tracking changes over thousands of years.

The findings prove that music can be a repository of scientific information about the people who make it, says Brown, who is director of the NeuroArts Lab in McMaster's Department of Psychology.

"Languages and genes change slowly over time, but music can change much more quickly," Brown says. "I think people thought that music was too transient to carry evidence of what happened thousands of years ago. Our results support the idea that music actually has elements in it that are ancient. In addition to being able to evolve quickly, it can also retain traces of ancient population movements."

Brown's lab is devoted to understanding of the neural, cognitive and evolutionary foundations of the arts, including: music, dance, drama and the visual arts, and is associated with McMaster's Institute for Music and the Mind. Research on the project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Brown, P. E. Savage, A. M.-S. Ko, M. Stoneking, Y.-C. Ko, J.-H. Loo, J. A. Trejaut. Correlations in the population structure of music, genes and language. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 281 (1774): 20132072 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2072

Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "Evidence of ancient human history encoded in music's complex patterns." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119152816.htm>.
McMaster University. (2013, November 19). Evidence of ancient human history encoded in music's complex patterns. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119152816.htm
McMaster University. "Evidence of ancient human history encoded in music's complex patterns." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119152816.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Millions Of Historical Public Domain Photos Added To Flickr

Millions Of Historical Public Domain Photos Added To Flickr

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Historian Kalev Leetaru uploaded a large collection of historical photos, images that were previously difficult to collect. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
40,000-Year-Old Mammoth Skeleton Found On Texas Farm

40,000-Year-Old Mammoth Skeleton Found On Texas Farm

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A mammoth skeleton was discovered in a gravel pit on Wayne McEwen's Texas farm back in May. It's now being donated to a museum. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins