“Music is not a universal language… music lets us connect without language.”
It’s no secret that music is universal. It doesn’t care where you’re from, what language you speak, or what car you drive. It speaks the words we don’t have and expresses ideas we could never fathom. All it takes is a quick glance at a total stranger whilst grooving along to instantly make that connection. To music lovers around the world, this is old news, but now there’s scientific proof to back it up.
A study by the University of Exeter and Tokyo University of the Arts has found that songs from around the world tend to share features that promote bonding and coordination amongst social groups. In the 304 studied recordings of stylistically diverse music from across the world, dozens of statistical universals were found, including consistent features related to pitch and rhythm, as well as social context and interrelationships. Now, the bliss of Tomorrowland, the surrealism of Electric Forest, and the frolicking at Bonaroo all makes sense.
(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
“Our findings help explain why humans make music,” explains Dr Thomas Currie from the University of Exeter. “The results show that the most common features seen in music around the world relate to things that allow people to coordinate their actions, and suggest that the main function of music is to bring people together and bond social groups – it can be a kind of social glue.” This couldn’t be truer, notably for the electronic dance community. How many times are have you smiled to yourself after catching a glimpse of your bartender wearing kandi, or overhear someone mention their love for Above & Beyond and burst into conversation? There’s something more to music that we’ve always felt, but are only beginning to understand, and though we may never fully grasp the powers at work, its effect is undeniable.
The lead author of the study, Pat Savage (a rad name for a rad study), explains the covert schematics behind music, “we’ve shown that despite its great surface diversity, most of the music throughout the world is actually constructed from very similar basic building blocks and performs very similar functions, which mainly revolve around bringing people together.”
“In the West we can sometimes think of music as being about individuals expressing themselves or displaying their talent, but globally music tends to be more of social phenomena.”
Next time you find yourself lost in a crowd, swaying joyfully to the beat, remember to look around and know that you’re not alone.