Ethnomusicology: Universal language of music in 315 cultures

Researchers at Harvard University in ethnomusicology have found similarities in music from 315 cultures worldwide.

What is ethnomusicology?

Globally, music is used by different cultures for different reasons: like songs of love, lullaby songs, celebratory songs, and war songs. Music worldwide has the same patterns that can be found repeatedly in its structure.

Research in ethnomusicology from 315 cultures for centuries is looking for cross-cultural analysis on similarities and differences among cultural music. The study covers a collection of song recordings from around the world.

The research spotted hidden structures and melodic elements that are similar to several songs found worldwide. The behavioral context of songs can be predicted just by its acoustic features. Researchers spent numerous years of digging into archives, libraries, and private collections of various song databases worldwide.

Researchers at the Music Lab of Harvard University call this database the Natural History of Song.

The internet is the most casual place we used to look for music, but we forgot that there are more ways to look for exciting music. Buried in archives is a vast compilation of great songs new to our ears.

Digging into archives

The research team collected around 118 different songs from 86 various cultures scattered around 30 geographic regions.

Hidden in the music archives of 315 cultures, are the following;

  • 5000 song descriptions
  • 2000 lyrics translation
  • 60 unique cultures from 30 geographic regions

Digging into too much information and analyzing it was the hard part of the research, songs were categorized then analyzed for similarities and rhythm pattern. Details gathered include the following:

  • song length
  • time the song was sung
  • number of singers
  • audience performing for
  • tempo
  • key
  • pitch range
  • other musical details related to the song

After compiling the information in a database, they can cross-reference and understand how humans write their music. Researchers emphasize analyzing love songs, healing songs, dance songs, and lullabies. Ethnomusicology intends to examine how musicians formulate these mental and emotional songs and how they pass it on to the listeners.

Experts can come up with a conclusion that listeners can accurately recognize a type of song even if it is the first time to hear it. They conclude that music is indeed an unspoken language, a universal language encrypted in a song.