Universality and diversity in human song

Science Vol/Iss. 366(6468) American Association for the Advancement of Science Washington, D.C. Published In Pages: eaax0868
By Mehr, Samuel A., Singh, Manvir, Knox, Dean, Ketter, Daniel M., Pickens-Jones, Daniel, Atwood, S., Lucas, Christopher, Jacoby, Nori, Egner, Alena A., Hopkins, Erin J., Howard, Rhea M., Hartshorne, Joshua K., Jennings, Mariela V., Simson, Jan, Bainbridge, Constance M., Pinker, Steven, O’Donnell, Timothy J., Krasnow, Max M., Glowacki, Luke


In asking whether or not there are meaningful universals in music, researchers compiled two catalogs – the Natural History of Song (NHS) Ethnography which contains ethnographic descriptions of song performances collected from eHRAF World Cultures, and the NHS Discography, which contains field recordings of performances of dance, healing, love, and lullaby. Using these two corpora, the study tests a variety of hypotheses about the universality and variability of both music behavior and music form. Specifically, whether there are meaningful universals in meaning and sound. The catalog of published sound recordings was analyzed by machine summaries, listener ratings, and manual transcriptions, which revealed that there were identifiable features of songs which could then predict their primary function cross-culturally. The results as a whole revealed that the existence of music is a cultural universal, and that the variation within music can be characterized by three factors assessing the formality, arousal, and religiosity of the song events. They also found that musical behavior varies more within societies than between them.

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:matthew.g.roth abbe.mccarter anj.droe