Scientists Confirm Music Is Universal, And It Is Used In ‘Strikingly Similar Ways’ Across The Globe

Kashmira Gander and Rosie McCall in Newsweek:

Scientists have confirmed every society on the planet makes music and it is used in “strikingly similar ways,” from lullabies to love songs.

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers spent five years painstakingly creating a database that features music created by people across the globe. They dubbed it the Natural History of Song.

With the help of experts who provided access to music archives the world over, the team were able to study field recordings of performances from each of the planet’s 30 regions. These ranged from love songs and lullabies to music intended to heal from everywhere from Australia, to the Pacific Northwest, and Northern Africa. Cassettes, vinyl, reel-to-reels, CDs and digital recordings were dug up for the cause.

Samuel Mehr, a fellow of the Harvard Data Science Initiative and research associate in psychology, recalled in a statement how he asked a librarian at the institution to help, and 20 minutes later was presented with a cart of 20 cases of reel-to-reel recordings of traditional Celtic music.

To answer whether there is any truth to the commonly held belief that music is universal, the team also collected almost 5,000 descriptions of music by ethnographers who immersed themselves in 60 societies.

More here.