From left to right, Professor Chris Kello, graduate student Butovens Me´de´ and Professor Ramesh Balasubramaniam worked together to analyze hundreds of sounds.
October 13, 2017 – By Lorena Anderson, University Communications – Jazz musicians riffing with each other, humans talking to each other and pods of killer whales all have interactive conversations that are remarkably similar to each other, new research reveals.
Cognitive science researchers at UC Merced have developed a new method for analyzing and comparing the sounds of speech, music and complex animal vocalizations like whale song and bird song. The paper detailing their findings is being published today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
Their method is based on the idea that these sounds are complex because they have multiple layers of structure. Every language, for instance, has individuals sounds, roughly corresponding to letters, that combine to form syllables, words, phrases, sentences and so on. It’s a hierarchy that everyone understands intuitively. Musical compositions have their own temporal hierarchies, but until now there hasn’t been a way to directly compare the hierarchies of speech and music, or test whether similar hierarchies might exist in bird song and whale song.
“Playing jazz music has been likened to a conversation among musicians, and killer whales are highly social creatures who vocalize as if they are talking to each other. But does jazz music really sound like a conversation, and do killer whales really sound like they are talking?” asked lead researcher and UC Merced Professor Chris Kello. “We know killer whales are highly social and intelligent, but it’s hard to tell that they are interacting when you listen to recordings of them. Our method shows how much their sound patterns are like people talking, but not like other, less social whales or birds.”
The researchers figured out a way to measure and compare sound recordings by converting them…