Universals in the world's musics

Steven Brown, Joseph Jordania
2011 Psychology of Music  
Many decades of skepticism have prevented the field of musicology from embracing the importance of musical universals. When universals have been discussed, it has generally been in the form of meta-critiques about the concept of universals, rather than in positive proposals about actual universals. We present here a typology of four categories of musical universals and a listing of 70 putative universals in musics cross-culturally. These universals span a wide variety of features, including
more » ... h, rhythm, melodic structure, form, vocal style, expressive devices, instruments, performance contexts, contents, and behaviors. The cross-cultural approach to the world's musics emerged in the late 19th century as a branch of psychoacoustics and Gestalt psychology, and was referred to as comparative musicology. In 1905, one of the founders of this movement, Erich von Hornbostel, wrote: Comparison is the principal means by which the quest for knowledge is pursued. Comparison makes possible the analysis and the exact description of an individual phenomenon by comparing it with other phenomena and by emphasizing its distinctive qualities. But comparison also characterizes individual phenomena as special cases in which the similarities are defined and formulated as 'laws'. Systematization and theory depend on comparison. (von Hornbostel, 1905(von Hornbostel, /1975 According to this view, the musics of the world should be analyzed in such a way as they are amenable to comparison. A major objective of the cross-cultural approach to music should be
doi:10.1177/0305735611425896 fatcat:tpkzxcxd7vg7rpac34h2m3qjjm