Oxford Seminar in the Psychology of Music: Manuel Anglada-Tort (University of Oxford)

Free to attend, no registration required. Join us in person or watch live on YouTube.

Music has been transmitted orally for countless human generations, changing over time under the influence of biological, cognitive, and cultural factors. How does oral transmission shape the evolution of music, and why do human songs have the structure they do? Here we explored these questions by running large-scale music evolution experiments with singing, in which melodies were orally transmitted from one participant to the next. Our results show that oral transmission plays a profound role in the emergence of musical structures, shaping initially random sounds into more structured systems that increasingly reuse and combine fewer elements (e.g., small pitch sets, small pitch intervals, arch-shaped melodic contours). However, we find that the emergence of these structures depends on a complex interplay between individual factors (e.g., vocal constraints and memory biases) and social influences acting on participants during cultural transmission. Together, these results provide the first quantitative characterization of the rich collection of biases that oral transmission imposes on music evolution, giving us a new understanding of how human song structures emerge via cultural transmission.

Dr Manuel Anglada-Tort is a Departmental Lecturer in the Faculty of Music and leads the Research Group Music, Culture, and Cognition (MCC) at the University of Oxford. He is interested in understanding the psychological and cultural foundations of music and aesthetic behaviour, and the role they play in human societies and cultural evolution. His research covers a variety of topics, including music perception, biological and cognitive foundations of musical behaviour, production and consumption of creative work, popularity dynamics, collective cognition, network science, and cultural evolution.

About the Series:

The Oxford Seminar in the Psychology of Music (OSPoM) features leading researchers presenting a wide variety of topics in the intersection between music and psychology. The Seminar is convened by Eric Clarke and Manuel Anglada-Tort (University of Oxford).

Enjoying a position at a neglected part of the clock, seminars will start at 4.56pm GMT, and will last for 90 minutes – 45 minutes of presentation followed by 45 minutes of discussion. These seminars are open to all and are hosted in a hybrid format: join in person (in the Committee Room of the Oxford Faculty of Music) or remotely via YouTube (on the Faculty’s YouTube channel).

Please visit our main series page for details about past and forthcoming seminars.