Hierarchical amplitude modulation structures and rhythm patterns: Comparing Western musical genres, song, and nature sounds to Babytalk.


Statistical learning of physical stimulus characteristics is important for the development of cognitive systems like language and music. Rhythm patterns are a core component of both systems, and rhythm is key to language acquisition by infants. Accordingly, the physical stimulus characteristics that yield speech rhythm in "Babytalk" may also describe the hierarchical rhythmic relationships that characterize human music and song. Computational modelling of the amplitude envelope of "Babytalk" (infant-directed speech, IDS) using a demodulation approach (Spectral-Amplitude Modulation Phase Hierarchy model, S-AMPH) can describe these characteristics. S-AMPH modelling of Babytalk has shown previously that bands of amplitude modulations (AMs) at different temporal rates and their phase relations help to create its structured inherent rhythms. Additionally, S-AMPH modelling of children's nursery rhymes shows that different rhythm patterns (trochaic, iambic, dactylic) depend on the phase relations between AM bands centred on ~2 Hz and ~5 Hz. The importance of these AM phase relations was confirmed via a second demodulation approach (PAD, Probabilistic Amplitude Demodulation). Here we apply both S-AMPH and PAD to demodulate the amplitude envelopes of Western musical genres and songs. Quasi-rhythmic and non-human sounds found in nature (birdsong, rain, wind) were utilized for control analyses. We expected that the physical stimulus characteristics in human music and song from an AM perspective would match those of IDS. Given prior speech-based analyses, we also expected that AM cycles derived from the modelling may identify musical units like crotchets, quavers and demi-quavers. Both models revealed an hierarchically-nested AM modulation structure for music and song, but not nature sounds. This AM modulation structure for music and song matched IDS. Both models also generated systematic AM cycles yielding musical units like crotchets and quavers. Both music and language are created by humans and shaped by culture. Acoustic rhythm in IDS and music appears to depend on many of the same physical characteristics, facilitating learning.