Integrated Perception of Music and Language

The prototypical or simplest form of sung language is probably the song. In fact, the degree to which the linguistic context is attended varies from song to song, performance to performance, and listener to listener. Though complex, listening to and singing songs are clearly among the most basic and universal of musical behaviors.

The effects of unilateral cerebral excisions (for the relief of epilepsy) on a song memory task have been investigated by Samson and Zatorre. Subjects first listened to novel melodies sung to lyrics and then were asked if they recognized the original tune with new lyrics, the original lyrics with new tunes, or the original songs. Patients with left temporal lobectomies were impaired in recognition of the lyrics, and both groups were impaired in recognizing the original tune with new lyrics. In another experiment, they presented the same melodies and lyrics separately. Right temporal lobectomy impaired melody recognition, but left temporal lobectomy did not. It appears that the integration of tune with lyrics, once formed, may not be disassembled later without cost.

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