Universal highlights of music around the globe
The numerous melodic styles of the world are so extraordinary, at least externally, that music researchers are frequently wary that they have any significant shared highlights. “Universality is a big word — and a dangerous one,” the great Leonard Bernstein once said. In fact, in ethnomusicology, universality became something of a dirty word. In any case, new research vows to once again revive the search for deep universal aspects of human musicality.
Samuel Mehr at Harvard University found that all cultures studied make music, and utilize comparable sorts of music in comparative contexts, with reliable highlights for each situation. For instance, dance music is quick and rhythmic, and lullabies delicate and moderate – all around the globe. Besides, all cultures indicated tonality: developing a small subset of notes from some base note, similarly as in the Western diatonic scale. Healing songs tend to utilize fewer notes, and all the more firmly dispersed, than love songs. These and different discoveries show that there are undoubtedly universal properties of music that likely reflect deeper commonalities of human cognition — a fundamental “human musicality.”
In a Science point of view piece in a similar issue, the University of Vienna analysts Tecumseh Fitch and Tudor Popescu comment on the suggestions. “Human musicality fundamentally rests on a small number of fixed pillars: hard-coded predispositions, afforded to us by the ancient physiological infrastructure of our shared biology. These ‘musical pillars’ are then ‘seasoned’ with the specifics of every individual culture, giving rise to the beautiful kaleidoscopic assortment that we find in world music,” Tudor Popescu explains.
“This new research revives a fascinating field of study, pioneered by Carl Stumpf in Berlin at the beginning of the 20th century, but that was tragically terminated by the Nazis in the 1930s,” Fitch adds.
As humankind comes nearer together, so does desire to comprehend what it is that everyone all has in common – in all parts of conduct and culture. The new research proposes that human musicality is one of these shared aspects of human cognition. “Just as European countries are said to be ‘United In Diversity’, so to the medley of human musicality unites all cultures across the planet,” concludes Tudor Popescu.
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