Music Universals (10-26-20)

Researchers have identified cross-cultural consistencies in responses to particular sounds and published their findings in Nature Human Behaviour.  A team affiliated with Harvard’s Music Lab reports that “American infants relaxed when played lullabies that were unfamiliar and in a foreign language. . . . Infants responded to universal elements of songs, despite the unfamiliarity of their melodies and words, and relaxed. . . . In the experiment, each infant watched an animated video of two characters singing either a lullaby or a non-lullaby. . . . Generally, the infants experienced a decrease in heart rate and pupil dilation, and attenuated electrodermal activity in response to the unfamiliar lullabies. . . . The 16 songs selected for the experiment came from the Natural History of Song Discography, and included lullabies and other songs originally produced to express love, heal the sick, or encourage dancing. Languages like Scottish Gaelic, Hopi, and Western Nahuatl, and regions including Polynesia, Central America, and the Middle East were represented in the songs chosen.” Incorporating musical elements common to lullabies into soundscapes generally is likely useful, in appropriate contexts.

Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite.  2020. “Frere Jacques, Are You Sleeping?” Press release, Harvard University, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/10/research-shows-lullabies-...