Are songbirds musicians?
Music engages its listeners by evoking feelings of surprise, tension and relief through a dynamic mixture of predictable and unpredictable patterns, a characteristic called “expressiveness”. Whether birdsong shares this quality with music was tested on a thrush nightingale’s rhythm (Luscinia luscinia).
The analysis of the bird’s vocals showed subtle variations in note timing, a dynamic structure similar to accelerando or crescendo in music. The study shows that rhythm fluctuations can indeed be detected in birdsong, paving the way for further research regarding mechanisms and functions of music-like structures in bird’s vocals.
Roeske, T. C., Kelty-Stephan, D. & Wallot, S. (2018). Multifractal analysis reveals music-like dynamic structure in singbird rythms. Scientific Reports 8. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-22933-2
Tina C. Roeske, Department of Neuroscience