The Conversation Continues: the Effect of Lyrics and Music Complexity of Background Music on Spoken-Word Recognition

Odette Scharenborg, Martha Larson


Background music in social interaction settings can hinder conversation. Yet, little is known of how specific properties of music impact speech processing. This paper addresses this knowledge gap by investigating the effect of the 1) complexity of the background music and 2) the presence versus absence of sung lyrics on spoken-word recognition in background music. To answer these questions, a word identification experiment was run in which Dutch participants listened to Dutch CVC words embedded in stretches of background music in four conditions: low/high complexity and with lyrics/music-only and at three SNRs. Music stretches with and without lyrics were sampled from the same song in order to control for factors beyond the complexity of the music and the presence of lyrics. The results showed a clear negative impact of more complex music and the presence of lyrics in background music on spoken-word recognition. The results open a path for future work and suggest that social spaces (e.g., restaurants, caf├ęs and bars) should make careful choices of music to promote conversation.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1088

Cite as: Scharenborg, O., Larson, M. (2018) The Conversation Continues: the Effect of Lyrics and Music Complexity of Background Music on Spoken-Word Recognition. Proc. Interspeech 2018, 2280-2284, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1088.


@inproceedings{Scharenborg2018,
  author={Odette Scharenborg and Martha Larson},
  title={The Conversation Continues: the Effect of Lyrics and Music Complexity of Background Music on Spoken-Word Recognition},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2018},
  pages={2280--2284},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1088},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1088}
}