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Science. 2019 Nov 22;366(6468). pii: eaax0868. doi: 10.1126/science.aax0868.

Universality and diversity in human song.

Author information

1
Data Science Initiative, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. sam@wjh.harvard.edu manvirsingh@fas.harvard.edu glowacki@psu.edu.
2
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
3
School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.
4
Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. sam@wjh.harvard.edu manvirsingh@fas.harvard.edu glowacki@psu.edu.
5
Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
6
Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14604, USA.
7
Department of Music, Missouri State University, Springfield, MO 65897, USA.
8
Unaffiliated scholar, Portland, OR 97212, USA.
9
Department of Political Science, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.
10
Computational Auditory Perception Group, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, 60322 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
11
Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA.
12
Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, 78464 Konstanz, Germany.
13
Department of Linguistics, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 1A7, Canada.
14
Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16802, USA. sam@wjh.harvard.edu manvirsingh@fas.harvard.edu glowacki@psu.edu.

Abstract

What is universal about music, and what varies? We built a corpus of ethnographic text on musical behavior from a representative sample of the world's societies, as well as a discography of audio recordings. The ethnographic corpus reveals that music (including songs with words) appears in every society observed; that music varies along three dimensions (formality, arousal, religiosity), more within societies than across them; and that music is associated with certain behavioral contexts such as infant care, healing, dance, and love. The discography-analyzed through machine summaries, amateur and expert listener ratings, and manual transcriptions-reveals that acoustic features of songs predict their primary behavioral context; that tonality is widespread, perhaps universal; that music varies in rhythmic and melodic complexity; and that elements of melodies and rhythms found worldwide follow power laws.

Comment in

PMID:
31753969
DOI:
10.1126/science.aax0868

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