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Infants’ Musical Environment at Home: Individual Variability in Pitch and Tempo of Song Renditions

Infants’ Musical Environment at Home: Individual Variability in Pitch and Tempo of Song Renditions

Session 1

Presenter Name:Hanqi Chen

School/Affiliation:University of Toronto Scarborough

Co-Authors:Haley E., Kragness, Jennifer K., Mendoza, Caitlin M., Fausey, & Laura K., Cirelli


Singing is common in parents’ day-to-day interactions with infants, conveying both social and emotional meaning. Previous research has documented remarkable pitch and tempo consistency in mothers’ renditions of frequently-sung songs, measured in the lab one week apart (Bergeson & Trehub, 2002). Interestingly, however, infants can recognize renditions of familiar songs that differ substantially from their own mothers’ version (Kragness et al., 2021). Infants’ remarkable generalization abilities raise the question: how variable are the song renditions they hear at home? The current study investigates the pitch and tempo of parents’ song repetitions in a typical day. We conducted secondary analyses of existing day-long recordings of 28 infants’ auditory environments (MendozaMusic database, Mendoza & Fausey, 2019). These recordings were collected by an unobtrusive audio recorder worn by the infants. First, each infants’ most frequently-heard song was identified. Next, for each instance of that song, the pitch was analyzed using audio analysis software and double-checked manually by a musically-trained researcher. Tempo was measured by the musically-trained researcher tapping along to the singing using software that calculated the tapping rate. Preliminary results suggest large individual differences across parents, with some parents displaying high pitch and tempo consistency, and others, extreme variations. This research suggests that previous lab-based research may not capture parent song variability in the home. It further raises questions about the sources of variability in parent song renditions, and about the impact of that variability on infant auditory development and familiar song recognition.

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