Music & migration

Proc Biol Sci 2013 Nov 13
Correlations in the population structure of music, genes and language

Brown S, Savage PE, Ko AM, Stoneking M, Ko YC, Loo JH, Trejaut JA
Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University,1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, L8S 4K1; Department of Musicology, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo, Japan; Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany; Graduate Institute of Clinical Medical Science, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan, Republic of China; Mackay Memorial Hospital, New Taipei City, Taiwan, Republic of China

We present, to our knowledge, the first quantitative evidence that music and genes may have coevolved by demonstrating significant correlations between traditional group-level folk songs and mitochondrial DNA variation among nine indigenous populations of Taiwan. These correlations were of comparable magnitude to those between language and genes for the same populations, although music and language were not significantly correlated with one another. An examination of population structure for genetics showed stronger parallels to music than to language. Overall, the results suggest that music might have a sufficient time-depth to retrace ancient population movements and, additionally, that it might be capturing different aspects of population history than language. Music may therefore have the potential to serve as a novel marker of human migrations to complement genes, language and other markers.