( The are excerpts. The full article is at, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/music-just-about-everyone%E2%80%99s-ears?mode=magazine&context=190485 )
Music to just about everyone’s ears
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.
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.
Ten of those features commonly occur together and revolve around group performance and dancing. Music everywhere tends to be simple and repetitive, the investigators find. Singing is typically accompanied by playing musical instruments, drumming and dancing.
That’s consistent with a longstanding idea that music took hold in human cultures because of its ability to bind people into groups and to coordinate collective activities. “If you want to understand how music evolved, a party with music and dancing is a much better model than a Chopin piano prelude recital,” Savage says.
Statistically universal features were defined as those that appeared in substantially more than half of the global sample of recordings and in at least half of the sample for each region.
These widely shared features included pitches organized in simple scales, melodies with descending pitches or pitches that rise before falling, and two- or three-beat rhythms. They also included singing from the chest, as opposed to singing extremely low or in a falsetto.
Contrary to what many researchers expected, pentatonic, or five-note, musical scales — the foundation of Western music — turned out not to be universal.