Turn your speakers on and listen up – it's experiment time. Sometimes, the only thing separating speech from music is repetition, and the speech-to-song illusion proves it.
In an outstanding feature published over at Aeon, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis – director of the music cognition lab at the University of Arkansas – explores why humans so enjoy listening to our favorite music over and over and over again. According to Margulis, what governs our affinity for auditory repetition extends far beyond the "mere exposure effect" (a well-documented tendency for people to prefer things they've been exposed to before – their reflections, for instance). "Repetition is a startlingly prevalent feature of music, real and imagined," Margulis writes. "In fact, repetition is so powerfully linked with musicality that its applications can dramatically transform apparently non-musical materials into song."