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Music Universals and Science Sometimes I come across something that validates my youth and leaves me seething with anger. I just came across one such thing. Here is the press-release-based article (by Brooks Hays at UPI): Music, songs from diverse cultures feature universal commonalities Here is the teaser article by W. Tecumseh Fitch and Tudor Popescu in Science, where the study was published: The world in a song And here is the study itself. Universality and diversity in human song Before anyone thinks this is a one-more-theory-presented-as-science thing, here are the authors of the study--all being scientists and/or academics: Samuel A. Mehr, Manvir Singh, Dean Knox, Daniel M. Ketter, Daniel Pickens-Jones, S. Atwood, Christopher Lucas, Nori Jacoby, Alena A. Egner, Erin J. Hopkins, Rhea M. Howard, Joshua K. Hartshorne, Mariela V. Jennings, Jan Simson, Constance M. Bainbridge, Steven Pinker, Timothy J. O’Donnell, Max M. Krasnow, Luke Glowacki. I don't know anything about most of these folks, but I do know about Steven Pinker because I have read several of his books. He's top quality in the science/academic field. I now have one more thing on my plate to study. But what leaves me furious is the sheer amount of taunting and ridicule I suffered in college for espousing the fundamentals of this study (not exactly, of course, but as the direction I wanted to go in). I was a music composition major. Along with the taunting (one composition teacher even said I wrote "Gypsy fiddler" music--and man, did that piss me off back then ), I was badgered and intimidated into learning the dodecaphonic system of Schoenberg and other avant-garde techniques. All of it sounded like shit, too. Try as I may, I couldn't learn to like the stuff I wrote, not because of any lack of talent, but because the systems I had to use were anti-human-brain. I was so frustrated, I was going to write a work about musical epistemology to force myself to study the fundamentals and prove this crap was crap and good music was good music--and why. I had recently discovered Rand and, of course, scorched earth became my style. But for practical matters, meaning money, I concentrated on the trombone because I was constantly working at gigs. And when I took an audition for a contract with the São Paulo State Symphony and was offered the principal trombone seat, I left the US just to get away from the madness, especially this avant-garde crap. (The Vietnam War was still going and that didn't help my disgust.) Oddly enough, when I started conducting down in Brazil, I became a bit famous for conducting this crappy modern music and pulling it off well. That's because I not only knew how and why it was composed, and I made sure those bases were covered correctly in the concert hall, but I went for dramatic effects in the compositions, sometimes even imposing dramatic gestures that were not in the score. In other words, I polished turds and made them shine. At least the composers and their political allies liked me and they opened lots of doors for me back then. They said I understood their music better than any other conductor. And I was doing it masochistically in a "give 'em the crap they want to eat, no, give them even more" frame of mind. How's that for irony? That's why I went off into producing pop music and songwriting, but that's another story.. Anyway, science is finally catching up with common sense about music. It's good to know--at a science level--that I was right back then and the people instructing me were wrong--maliciously wrong. To use a Randian metaphor, I was the intended man in the shape of a pot of a comprachico education system. It's a good thing I'm hardheaded and did not turn out like a pot. Still, being forced into a pot hurts like hell. That was a long time ago, but I'm still pissed. I can't get those years back from those assholes who were charged with teaching me how to compose. (On the tonal side, I did learn some useful things, like how to write figured bass in the style of Bach if I ever time travel to the 1600-1700's and need to offer my services to church organists. Bah...) Anyway, I will go through this study and comment when I get the time. I am no longer a professional musician and haven't written any music for years, although recently I have been getting the itch again. So I am intensely interested at several levels. If this topic interests you, look into the study and let me know what you think. I would love to know. Michael