Music to just about everyone’s ears

Statistical analysis finds globally shared rhythms, pitch changes, instrumentation

3:00PM, JUNE 29, 2015

Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news: Scientists have for the first time identified key characteristics of music worldwide. The findings lay the groundwork for deciphering why people everywhere sing, play instruments and find melodies so compelling.

No musical features, not even simple scales composed of distinct pitches, are absolute universals that occur in all song traditions, say enthnomusicologist Patrick Savage of Tokyo University of the Arts and his colleagues. However, 18 features are statistical universals: They occur in a large majority of musical cultures, the researchers report June 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.




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