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Music Is Universal

Music Is Universal



Cultures all over the world have different kinds of music in each society, but what this means is when you zoom out, societys musical behaviors are pretty similar, says lead author Sam Mehr, a psychologist at Harvard.



Mehr started working on the project after he kept reading a trite line at the top of research papers that said, music is universal. But every time he came across the statement, there wasnt a citation to back it up.



To see if there was any substance to this claim, he and his fellow researchers created two databases: one with descriptions from anthropologists of what happened when music from 60 was playing, and another of 118 audio recordings from 86 different societies.



He found that there were three characteristics of behavior that consistently characterized music: formality, arousal (or how calming or exciting a song was), and religiosity. Most societies had music that fell into more than one category.



Given those categories, both machines and foreign listeners were able to pick out a songs purpose in further tests. The researchers investigated responses from community scientists across the globe, looking at how well they could identify the type of tune based on samples from an online quiz.



People did a decent job guessing the themes, especially for dance songs and lullabies, says author Manvir Singh, a Harvard Ph.D. student in the department of human evolutionary biology. Music appears in this huge diversity of behavioral, social, emotional context in human societies, Singh says, but it does so similarly across societies.



Daniel Levitin, a cognitive scientist whos done similar research on music and evolution, believes this kind of systematic approach to understanding music is long overdue. He also says that the study points to an evolutionary history between music and humans.



The musical brain may have led to things that we take for granted in human nature, like compassion and empathy, because music uniquely can help us achieve those states, Levitan explains. Not to mention awe, appreciation, and gratitude.



For Mehr and his team, the hunt for data is just the beginning. The lab is running more detailed quizzes to dig into how people respond to what they hear. They also hope to do studies on different populations like infants to see how they react to tunes like lullabies from faraway societies.



Singh says he also hopes to analyze lyrics and the way they shape peoples feelings and actions, even if its in a language they dont understand. Exploring the lyrics allows us to better understand how music can induce these emotional or behavioral responses, says Singh, but also, in a broader way, the world view of the people who are singing.


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  • 易读度:困难
  • 来源:英语世界 2020-12-05