2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The common nightingale (Luscinia luscinia) can swing like jazz musicians. Having studied the rhythmic characteristics of the singing of an ordinary nightingale, German scientists have found that in order to attract the attention of listeners, the nightingale can slow down and speed up the rhythm of its songs. A preprint of the article is available on the bioRxiv website.
The task of any piece of music is to influence the perception of its listeners, attract their attention, make them think and feel. According to music psychologists, dynamically fluctuating predictability - the alternation of simple, stereotypical motives and unexpected insertions that can cause tension - makes music attractive. This can be achieved by alternating the general melody of the piece with tempo shifts: its acceleration (also known as accelerando) and its deceleration (ritardando).
The authors of the new study suggested that birds can also use dynamic swinging techniques to create expressive singing to grab the attention of their listeners. From an open database with recordings of the singing of various species of birds, they took 24 samples of songs of the common nightingale (Luscinia luscinia) - a bird that is famous for the variety of melodies played (each individual can perform from 12 to 40 different songs).
Singing of an ordinary nightingale:
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Scientists have applied multifractal analysis to recordings of nightingales singing - a method aimed at studying signal fluctuations over time. This method is based on calculating the standard deviation of the intensity or length of the signal at different time intervals. Scientists have found that the nightingale's singing is multifractal, that is, the bird alternates the general tempo of its singing with displacements, accelerating or slowing it down.
Spectrogram of a nightingale singing containing a single motive (highlighted in blue) and slowing down the tempo of the sound (highlighted in yellow)
Based on this, scientists concluded that the common nightingale is able to control the rhythm of its singing, thereby making it more attractive to listeners.
You can read about how archaeologists discovered the vocal organ of the oldest bird species here.