September 22, 2023

Is music good for the world?

Is music really a “universal” language? Two articles published in Science support the notion that, despite many differences, music shares important commonalities throughout the world.

Unity in Diversity

Researchers in Samuel Mehr’s leadership at Harvard University carried out a study that analysed the music of different cultures from four corners of the world.  Samuel Mehr discovered that all cultures studied consistently used similar musical characteristics in similar contexts. For example, throughout the world dance music was found to be fast and rhythmic whilst a lullaby is soft and slow. Compared to the others, healing music use fewer notes and nearer tones.

This and other findings indicate that the music has universal features reflecting probably deeper common aspects of human cognition – a basic “human musicality.”

In another Science article, University of Vienna researchers Tecumseh Fitch and Tudor Popescu, who argue that human musicality unite all cultures on the planet, explain the result of their research as follows; “Human musicality basically depends on a couple of fixed features; these are hard-coded predispositions provided to us by our common biology. Afterward, these ‘musical constants’ are marinated with characteristics of each culture.” Like the language learning adventure, music is shaped by cultural codes on innate traits that are the same in all people.

Music has the ability to mobilise the masses and make people feel the same feelings of being sad or happy, irrespective of where they live or the culture they come from.  Is it also possible then for music to become the common language that unites people and allows goodness to spread?

What do you think?


1. Tecumseh Fitch, Tudor Popescu. Bir şarkıda dünya. Bilim, 2019; 366 (6468): 944-945 DOI: 10.1126 / science.aay2214

2. Samuel A.Mehr, Manvir Singh, Dean Knox, Daniel M. Ketter, Daniel Pickens-Jones, S. Atwood, Christopher Lucas, Nori Jacoby, Alena A. Egner, Erin J. Hopkins, Rhea M. Howard, Joshua K. Hartshorne Mariela V. Jennings, Jan Simson, Constance M. Bainbridge, Steven Pinker, Timothy J. O’Donnell, Max M. Krasnow, Luke Glowacki. İnsan şarkısında evrensellik ve çeşitlilik. Bilim, 2019; 366 (6468): eaax0868 DOI: 10.1126 / science.aax0868



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