Music science

About 40,000 years ago, a slender bone flute was discarded in a cave in Central Europe. The instrument is engraved with five finger holes and a tapered mouthpiece, dating back to the early days of human settlement in the African continent.

Humans have been creating music for a long time.

Even the flute may be a recent example of the development of our music. Its ingenious design shows an understanding of acoustics and may draw on long-standing musical conventions. But earlier practice is still unknown, because the first piece of music must have been created with the help of body and sound, and died with the death of the creator. Charles Darwin believes that our musical behavior is “one of the most mysterious acts.” At least in terms of origin, his views still resonate.

One way to explore the musical talents of the Stone Age flute player before entering the European continent was to study primitive human anatomy. Fossils show that our southern ancestors had vocal structures similar to gorillas, while gorillas could not sing. But the Heidelberg, our last ancestor with the Neanderthals, has a vocal physiology that is very similar to modern people. Given that Heidelberg people have evolved at least 500,000 years ago, music may have a history of 500,000 years.

Of course, the ability to make music does not prove that the music was actually created. Is music important enough to drive evolution – providing selective advantages for the most musically talented people? Or is it just an accessory to other evolutionary outcomes, just like a language?

Harvard University cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker likens music to “hearing cheesecake.” Music is a thing that humans learn to make and deliver emotions, just like a cake with a taste bud on the tongue. As opposed, Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford University, believes that singing, in primates, may be as important as combing in fostering social cohesion. This “distance combing” may be more effective than catching the scorpion and may promote the harmonious coexistence of the human population.

Music will undoubtedly help to strengthen today’s small circles, especially in the playlists of teenagers.

Celtic Bugle
The Celtic Bugle is a very useful tool. They are weird in shape, mostly showing the appearance of animal heads, such as wild boars, and some are mythical animal images. It is said that the sound of this instrument is extremely horrible, and has a powerful magic, which allows the Celtic warrior to fight the enemy like a demon. And the Celtic Bugle also has a subtle design, the throat of these horns can be active, when the horn sounds, the animal’s head will also follow, as live, thus playing the role of deterring the enemy.

Scottish archaeologists studied the most complete Celtic bugs excavated from the swamp in 1816, and wanted to actually hear it, so they commissioned metal craftsman John Creed to make a bronze and brass one. replica. After 400 hours of meticulous work, the instrument that the Celtics are proud of is created.

The musician John Kenny is currently playing the transcript of the Celtic bugle found in Banff, Scotland. It has ample size and a complex design, including a hinged lower jaw and a spring-loaded wooden tongue that provides musical flexibility comparable to any modern instrument: covering a range of five octaves. The Celtic bug can overwhelm the trombone or flute, and even screams and other special effects.

a lyrical dictionary

A single tone of a particular pitch, also known as a note.


The tone quality of the tone, which produces a higher or lower sound based on the frequency of the sound wave.


Amplify musical tones by the interaction of sound vibrations with surfaces or enclosed spaces.


The pressure of sound vibration is expressed by the loudness of the music.


The beat is a repetitive and weak beat in music that is repeated periodically and regularly.


A series of individual tones arranged to achieve a musical effect, also known as a tune.


A chord is usually a combination of three or more tones that are vertically overlapped by a certain rule and is part of the harmony.


Harmony includes “chords” and “harmonic”, and the horizontal organization of the chords is harmonic. Harmony has obvious thick, light, thick and thin colors.


With a small, fast modulation of periodic tones, the rational use of vibrato can make music more beautiful and enhance the appeal of art.

Evolution of popular music
Since August 4, 1958, Bulletin Magazine has compiled a list of the 100 most popular songs per week based on record sales, number of radio plays, and recent streaming traffic. For Armand Leroy, an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College London, this ranking is equivalent to a fossil record of culture. Leroy and his colleagues used audio analysis technology to classify 17,000 samples from the 50-year-old songs. They used statistical techniques to extract musical features such as timbres and chords, just like wild biologists The same is true for classification.

These 13 categories cover all musical styles from 1960 to 2010. Their grouping is based on the similarity of chord changes and tonal forms. Standard type names such as “Country” often appear in multiple categories. Leroy’s analysis shows that some country songs may be more similar to certain rock tunes than other songs promoted in country style.

These tables show the relative popularity of the annual music category, expressed in width. The shaded portion indicates the transition. The most dramatic change took place in 1991, when hip-hop music began to occupy the United States. The early two musical revolutions were the explosion of rock music in the mid-1960s and the emergence of electronic synthesizers and mechanical drum machines in the mid-1980s. These new instruments have had a wide-ranging impact, so that in 1986 it became the least diverse year for music.

The table shows a higher level relationship between the 13 categories. For example, the similarities between blues rock and electronic music are more similar than the similarities between the two music types and hip hop music.

What makes music popular?
Neurologist Norbeto Gretzwaz of Georgetown University can predict the popularity of songs without listening. By analyzing hundreds of popular singles on the Bulletin Board’s Top 100 singles from 1958 to 1991, he and his colleagues discovered a factor they called “harmony surprises,” which seemed to explain all artists. The reason for the success of the song.

Q: What is a pleasant surprise?

A: Musicians use a lot of chords to write their melody. Some chords are often used, while others are rarely used. Give the harmony a little surprise: the harmony first appeared! It is to let the next harmonies appear in advance. The sound of the next chord appears on the tempo that does not belong to the next chord, giving a “preemptive” feeling. Using the first sound on the weak beat makes the rhythm look dull and more lively.

Q: What does this have to do with the popularity of the song?

A: We found two types of connections between harmony surprises and song popularity. First of all, having many amazing chord songs tends to be closer to the top of the Billboard Top 100 list than the less surprising songs. Second, the reason for the popularity of the song is the surprise change of the various parts of the song. The two main parts of a song are poetry and chorus, which tell the story of the song. Chorus is the part that has repeated lyrics. We found that in successful songs, the harmony of poetry is often higher than the chorus.

Q: Which popular songs show an amazing combination of ideals?

A: In the Beatles’ “Difficult Days”, the opening chord is one of the most surprising chords of all the songs we’ve analyzed. Then, when the song transitions from poetry to chorus, the harmony surprise will be reduced.

On the other hand, there are several songs that are relatively unsuccessful to other successful artists. These songs include Elvis Presley’s Judy, The Beatles’ “I don’t want to ruin the party” and the whimsy band’s “until the end of the day.” Our findings may explain why these songs “failed.” Their bass and surprises and the surprises between poetry and chorus are rare.

Q: Can your formula help artists write more engaging songs?

A: I often joked that we can provide musicians with advice on how to make their songs popular. However, the road to becoming a hit song is more than just exploring a surprise. Factors such as rhythm and lyrics play an important role in the success of the song. Despite this, our labs have been experimenting with a series of experiments using computer-generated “melody”, which vary in surprise. We have asked participants to rank these songs in order of preference. Although these melodyes are computer generated, the preferences displayed are in line with the principles we found in harmonic surprises.

Music is semantic
Those who will be immersed in a beautiful and sad folk song, or who are immersed in the intense anger of the death metal, will understand the meaning of the music. But philosopher Philip Schlenk of the French National Center for Scientific Research believes that music is more than just a way of expressing emotions. By mimicking the way we experience sound in our daily lives, the composer adds extremely subtle changes to the music to help tell their story.

When the pitch of the instrument is lower than the surrounding sound

Meaning: The sound source is large.

Cause: A larger sound source has a larger resonant cavity.

A realistic example: an elephant that blew the horn.

An example of music: Camille Saint-Sang’s “The Elephant” of “The Big Fantasy of the Zoo”.

When the pitch of the music is lowered

Meaning: The sound source is losing energy.

Cause: Slow motion produces low frequency sound.

A realistic example: a tape player with a battery that is almost empty.

Music example: the last two bars of Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne.

When the volume of the instrument is less than the surrounding sound

Meaning: The sound source is not so energetic.

Cause: A low-energy source produces a small sound pressure that reduces the volume.

A realistic example: a whistling whistle.

Music example: Frederic Chopin’s last episode of the “Raindrop” overture.

When the volume of the music increases

Meaning: The sound source is approaching.

Cause: The closer the sound source is, the louder the sound pressure (volume) the listener hears.

A real world example: the upcoming car.

Music example: The third movement in the first symphony of Gustav Mahler “Frel Jacques”.

When the rhythm of music is slower than before

Meaning: The sound source moves more slowly.

Cause: The sound indicates the behavior of the source.

A realistic example: a slow pace.

Music example: “Turtle” in Camille Saints’s “The Big Fantasy of the Zoo”.

When the vibrato increases

Meaning: The source is more emotional.

Cause: The vibrato of the sound seems to indicate a decline in sound control in an emotional environment.

An example of the real world: a trembling speech.

An example of music: Max Brooke’s Cole Nedley.

Concert hall acoustics
The Vienna Concert Hall is hailed as the world’s greatest concert hall, and its remarkable acoustics are largely attributed to an accident. The building was a by-product of style preferences and engineering constraints of the 1860s. The Aalto University’s acousticians Tapio Loki and Yuka Patina analyzed the famous “shoebox” concert hall to understand why the music played there was widely acclaimed.

Side wall

The sound becomes rich when it is reflected around the room, so it won’t be transmitted to people’s ears at once. The side walls of the concert hall are narrow and covered with statues, which is especially helpful in increasing the sound reflections on the side walls, creating reverberations that make the audience feel completely immersed in the sound.

2. Balcony

The low frequency sound of a bass instrument requires a very wide surface to reflect correctly. The deep side balcony provides plenty of room for low frequency scattering. The balcony, together with the side walls of the auditorium, ensures a full range of sound waves.

3. Ceiling

The high ceiling of the concert hall offers another delay, even longer than the walls and balconies. The gold-plated surface effectively reflects high frequencies, and the surface finish of the ceiling may also contribute to the overall brightness of the music, creating a huge resonance box.

4. Floor

Many modern concert halls optimize the view of the stadium seats, but stepped floors and bulky chairs are acoustically harmful. The high back seat blocks sound waves reflected from around the room, preventing the music from completely enveloping the audience. The flat floor of the concert hall and the space under the chair also allow the audience to hear the gradual low frequency.

5. Stage

The rise of the stage and the flatness of the ground will reduce the viewer’s visual impression of the musician, but the visual disadvantage is offset by the positive impact of the hearing. The extra height makes the audience unable to hear the sound reflected on the stage, thus changing the “feel” of the music. The hardwood stage floor enhances the bass tones by not resonating; the resonance phase absorbs sound energy during vibration and reduces sound energy elsewhere in the room.

6. Organ

Even if no one plays the organ, it plays an important role. The instrument’s position perfectly spreads the sound in all directions and transmits more sound energy to the side walls to maximize surround reverberation. This spread also prevents sound waves from bounced back in the room for a long time after playing a note, which can be distracting.