Music can reveal hidden clues about human history in the same way fragments of ancient pottery and bones do, a Canadian researcher says.
McMaster University psychologist Steven Brown, leader of an international research team, says the history of human populations is embedded in music, where complex combinations of rhythm, pitch and arrangement form a code scientists can read in the way they read changes in human DNA and language.
"Music is an untapped migrational marker that can be used to help people understand the history of human populations," Brown said in a university release Tuesday.
The researchers compared the mitochondrial DNA and the folk music of nine indigenous populations of Taiwan and found each told a similar story about the ways those populations have changed and converged over the last 6,000 years.
The findings show music can be a repository of scientific information about the people who make it, Brown said.
"It adds to the whole story of human history. We need more evidence, and this is a new kind of evidence that we can add to the pot," he said.
"Languages and genes change slowly over time, but music can change much more quickly," he said. "Our results support the idea that music actually has elements in it that are ancient.
"In addition to being able to evolve quickly, it can also retain traces of ancient population movements," he said.