A global rhythm in humans was first discovered in primates
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If rhythm is an extremely rare trait in mammals, then a long-term study, conducted for more than a decade on the island of Madagascar, has shown that it is not unique to humans.

long-term study

Recently published in the magazine current biologyThis work by an international team of researchers involved the study over a 12-year period for several years lemur Indri Indri from MadagascarIt is an endangered species whose representatives are among the rare primates. singers a favour. The researchers’ main goal was to determine if they also had a sense of rhythm.

« Understanding the evolution of human music has aroused long-term interest, but music is not limited to humans ‘, he explains Andrea Ravinani, researcher inMax Planck Institute He co-authored the study. ” Research on musical characteristics in other species allows us to build an “evolutionary tree” of musical traits, and to understand how rhythmic abilities arose and evolved in humans.. »

The team studied 20 groups of indris, or a total of 39 animals, recording and analyzing their songs to determine categorical rhythm, a “universal rhythm” found in all human musical cultures. The tempo is categorical when the intervals between sounds are of exactly the same duration (rhythm 1:1) or double (rhythm 1:2). This type of rhythm makes it easy to identify the song, even if it is sung at different speeds (tempo).

Indris songs can be performed in a duet or in a choir.

Members of the Andres family groups tend to sing together, harmonizing duets and choruses. The research team found that the Andris hymns display the classical rhythmic categories (1:1 and 1:2), as well as the Rytardando (” Slower ”) typical of many musical traditions. Male and female songs had a different rhythm, but they provided the same rhythm.

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« The precise rhythmic pattern can play an important role in signal coordination. Indris songs can be performed in a duet or in chorus, and the predictive rhythmic pattern can benefit the acquisition process. “, details Chiara de Gregorio, lead author of the study.

« An audio program with rhythmic categories may be easier to acquire or learn than a less structured program. She completes. ” Like us, it’s easier to remember a song with a simple and specific style, like a pop song, than it is to remember a more diverse song, like a complex jazz tune.. »

Other species of song monkeys potentially affected

While studies have shown rhythm in bird species, the researchers say these findings are the first evidence of a universal rhythm in non-human mammals, and they suggest that this ability may have evolved independently. Among the types of singers, the last common ancestor of humans and indries lived about 77.5 million years ago. Rhythm can facilitate the production and processing of songs, or even their learning.

Ultimately, the researchers speculate, indri may not be the only primate with rhythmic characteristics in common with human music.

« I think it is possible for other primates to show this universal rhythm, especially those who sing “, valuable from Gregorio. « For example, gibbons could be a good candidate because their songs are very long and complex, and their functions are similar to those of endears.. »

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