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  1. Form and Function in Human SongMehr, Samuel A. - Current Biology, 2018 - 2 Hypotheses

    The present research investigates the theory of universality in form and function in human song in a sample of people from 60 countries listening to music from 86 mainly small-scale societies. The aims are to document whether people 1) identify the social function of a song solely on form, 2) demonstrate form-function inferences, 3) use contextual aspects to distinguish song functions, and 4) use musical features to differentiate song functions. The authors claim support for the universal perception of song form-function in music listeners.

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  2. Universality and diversity in human songMehr, Samuel A. - Science, 2019 - 6 Hypotheses

    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.

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