A research study published in the journal “Science” said, songs spanning different languages and ethnic groups across the world exhibit common behavioural patterns. The study by researchers from Harvard University in the US suggests that human culture everywhere is built from common psychological building blocks. It is the first comprehensive scientific analysis of the similarities and differences in the types of music produced by various ethnicity around the world. The study looked at more than a century of research on the historical and cultural context of music, or ethnomusicology, of more than 300 societies across the globe.
The researchers collected hundreds of music recordings in libraries and private collections of scientists halfway across the world, culminating in around 5,000 song deions from 60 cultures spanning 30 distinct geographic regions globally. The researchers also added reel-to-reels, vinyl, cassette tapes, CDs, and digital recordings, and the private music collections of anthropologists and ethnomusicologists — who study the cultural context of music — into a database they called ‘The Natural History of Song’.
They coded the cultural roots and music types making up the database into dozens of variables. To this, the researchers also added details about singers and audience members, the time of day, duration of singing, the presence of instruments, and more details for thousands of passages about songs in the ethnographic corpus.
The results of the study revealed that across societies, music is associated with behaviours such as infant care, healing, dance, love, mourning, and warfare. According to the researchers, these behaviours are not too different between societies. While examining lullabies, healing songs, dance songs, and love songs, they found that songs sharing similar behavioural functions had common musical features.