Musicality defined by our grasp of the emotional before the semantic content

* Article by Eduardo Reck Miranda, professor of computer music at Plymouth University
The Guardian, November 2013
Photo credit: Angela Meade photographed by Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera


“Sacra Conversazione represents my enduring interest in understanding the human voice and developing technology to harness its potential for music composition. Indeed, voice has played a key role in the development of western music theory from very early on. My research is aimed at continuing developing our musical tradition.

In an interview for the journal Nature in the run-up to the concert, I suggested to Philip Ball that humans seem to have evolved a sort of prosodic fast lane for non-semantic vocal information in the brain’s auditory pathways, from the ears to functional components that deal with emotions.

Prosody is the music of speech, conveyed by acoustic traits such as melodic contour, rhythm and timbre. My pet theory is that we can process prosody faster than the meaning of words: we are capable of grasping the emotional content of a phrase before, or even without, making sense of what it is saying. This might be a defining mechanism of our musicality.”

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