What Makes Music Universal

02021-04-29 | Uncategorized | 5 comments

What Makes Music Universal – Issue 99: Universality – Nautilus:

This spring, in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, more than 100 scholars sound off on evolution and universality of music. I love the din. The academic discord gives way to a symphony of insights into the meaning of music in our lives. It may be a cliché to say music is the sound of our shared humanity. But it feels transcendent to be in tune with a person from another culture. There’s something alchemical about knowing we share the same biology. Originate from the same place. Share the same desires. But there’s more to the story. My recent adventures in the fields of music research have instilled in me, deeper than ever before, the feeling that music is what makes us human. I also have a new appreciation of what universality in music really means.


“We’ve shown you don’t need to be familiar with a particular culture to understand and enjoy its music,” Samuel Mehr, lead author on the paper, told me. Mehr is a research associate in the Department of Psychology at Harvard, where he is principal investigator at the Music Lab, a psychology laboratory studying music perception and music production. “You can find music meaningful and artistically interesting, and even glean reliable information, objective facts, from music made in different cultures. That’s really interesting socially because it shows there’s a common ground in this artistic product across cultures.”

Music is the stuff that really connects us. We don’t have to know or understand or even like another culture in order to dig their music. Even more universal than food it is music that brings us together. It has been thus for millenia.


  1. JaneParhamKatz

    Miracle of a symphony orchestra. There sit 100 or so people, quite calm, each playing an instrument, looking up at the conductor once in a while. But what are we witnessing when we see and hear this? We are getting treated to the most magnificent, soaring music! Or gentle melodies, sometimes on a solo violin, or bassoon. For instance in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, last movement, the music builds to a tremendous level of excitement, yet the people playing in the orchestra are still just sitting there, at peace. Of course, the conductor may be going through all kinds of contortions. WHERE is that music? It’s not IN those instruments. It is somewhere in the spiritual realm and has such power over our emotions. And it matters not who these players are, what language they speak, how old they are. Likewise, the audience can be from anywhere and everywhere, and they are united as one in the music. I LOVE IT SO MUCH!

  2. Will

    Where ever there is a beat + rhythm you will see feet tapping, hips swaying and heads bobbing…it is the soul releasing it’s smile.

    • JaneParhamKatz


    • anne


      Music has taken me this far ….

      (“the water lets you in” ).

  3. anne

    I have been on an interesting journey with music – for many years, I listened mostly to instrumental music, including yours. (i live in Toronto – I had never heard of you – a friend took me. I was spellbound – it was such a cool performance- will always remember it) ..

    .(in my youth rarely listened to anything – which is shocking considering the bands around – but I did not like going to concerts – i prefer to be in my own space when i listen).

    Over the past 2 decades I have widened my intake. I have put together music to help people open up ….drop deep into them selves etc . I can spend hours listening now.

    I accidentally fell into your blog about a year 1/2 ago. (funny story !). Starting reading some of your posts…and I like them, very much – to the point of distraction!

    ( sorry if i have stirred stuff up – that was not my intention) –

    fyi -I am trying to pull off the impossible – it is wearing me out.
    If i do get something off the ground, I would like to use some of your music . and i will send you an e-mail asking your permission .


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