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Eleanor Philpot

A new study by Harvard shows music to be a universal language

5:23, 6th January 2020

A study conducted by the science department at Harvard university shows music to carry certain codes and patterns that are understood by all.

Conceived by Samuel Mehr, a fellow of the Harvard Data Science Initiative and research associate in psychology, Manvir Singh, a graduate student in Harvard’s department of Human Evolutionary Biology, and Luke Glowacki, formerly a Harvard graduate student and now a professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, the study wanted to understand whether or not┬ácertain qualities were common among music from different cultures.

The research team gathered over a century’s worth of music from 315 cultures from all the around world and found that the nature of a song can be understood purely by looking at its acoustic features. In other words all cultures have a shared understanding of what makes dance songs, love songs, healing songs and lullabies, since songs that share a similar psychological purpose tend to have similar musical features.

In their paper the team wrote, ‘We propose that the music of a society is not a fixed inventory of cultural behaviours, but rather the product of underlying psychological faculties that make certain kinds of sound feel appropriate to certain social and emotional circumstances.’

To read the full paper visit: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6468/eaax0868

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