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A study found that some songs originating from different cultures and societies share common patterns, suggesting that music is universal.
Samuel Mehr, the study’s lead author, said that he has encountered previous studies saying that music is universal but with no data to support the claim. So, his team decided to look for solid evidence. As an attempt to prove the universality of music as a human language, the researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis of music around the world.
The researchers wondered whether musical pieces are influenced more by individual cultures, as many experts believe, or by the pieces’ intended function. In a span of five years, they looked for recordings from libraries and private archives from different societies and cultures worldwide. Throughout cultures, the researchers obtained musical pieces that were used for similar functions, which include dance, rituals, mourning, childcare, and expressions of love.
Upon comparing the recordings, the researchers found that songs that share the same social functions exhibit common musical characteristics. For instance, across all cultures, lullabies tend to sound slow and graceful. Dance songs, on the other hand, are usually lively and rhythmic. This finding challenges the notion that features of songs and other musical pieces primarily depend on the cultural background of the composers.
According to Mehr, the current study helps pave the way for answering many questions about music and how it evolved. After this study, Mehr’s team would like to delve into music theory and the universality of humans’ ability to create songs. They would like to test the belief that all people are capable of making music.