Statistical universals reveal the structures and functions of human music

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol/Iss. 112(29) National Academy of Sciences Washington, D.C Published In Pages: 8987-8992
By Savage, Patrick E., Brown, Steven, Sakai, Emi, Currie, Thomas E.


Certain musical features will occur universally in the global sample of recordings (8987).


No features were found to be absolute universals, that is, occurring in every culture. However, 21 features (2-3 beat subdivisions, non-equidistant scales, <= 7 scale degrees, chest voice, discrete pitches, motivic patterns, descending/arched contour, word use, small intervals, isochronous bet, 2-beat subdivisions, short phrases, instrument use, male performers, metrical hierarchy, group performance, voice use, and few durational values) were statistically more frequent globally, and also present in the majority of recordings from each world region. Researchers used language phylogeny to control for historical relatedness.


Test NameSupportSignificanceCoefficientTail
Phylogenetic Generalized Least Squares (PGLS)Partially supportedp < 0.05UNKNOWNUNKNOWN


Variable NameVariable Type OCM Term(s)
Musical FeaturesAssociationMusic