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Amazon bird species has songs sounding like human music

Oct. 16, 2013 at 4:22 PM   |   Comments

SEEWIESEN, Germany, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A bird species living in the Amazon rainforest has songs showing strong similarities to human music, with a preference for harmony, researchers said.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, working with U.S. colleagues, report the songs of the aptly named Musician Wren use the same intervals -- octaves, perfect fifths and perfect fourths -- heard as consonants in many human cultures.

Consonant intervals, which sound calm and stable, are the basis for keys in Western music.

In experiments, the researchers played songs of the wren to human listeners along with computer-generated version that were similar but with slightly altered intervals.

The participants considered the birds' interval choices to be more "musical," they said.

The song of the Uirapuru -- the Portuguese name for the Musician Wren -- is often a part of Brazilian music, the researchers said.

"Our findings explain why this bird species plays such a prominent role in mythology and art," Max Planck researcher Henrik Brumm said. "However, it does not mean that birdsong in general is constructed like human music -- there are around 4000 different song bird species and each has its own way of singing.

"Some are not very musical at all," he said.

Topics: Max Planck
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