Music is in Fact Universal

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1835)

How many times have you heard some version of that quote? We’ve come to use and understand this as a metaphor for how we believe music to be appreciated across time and culture. Until recently, the universality of music had never been systematically demonstrated. The study “Universality and Diversity in Human Song”, conducted by a team at Harvard University led by researcher Samuel A. Mehr, aimed to prove this metaphor through “a systematic analysis of the features of vocal music found worldwide.”

The study found that “music is in fact universal”, appearing in every society observed.

“Analysis…shows that music appears in every society observed; that variation in song events is well characterized by three dimensions (formality, arousal, religiosity); that musical behavior varies more within societies than across them on these dimensions; and that music is regularly associated with behavioral contexts such as infant care, healing, dance, and love.”

Give A Note recognizes the importance of access to quality music education in our public schools for many reasons, the least of which is giving students the opportunity to understand and appreciate this universal language. Music exposes students to the musical traditions and customs of different cultures and encourages participation in the diverse musical behaviors and events that are a part of human culture.

To learn more about this ongoing research, how you can participate, play games, and to read the full study, visit

Read the full article “Universality and Diversity in Human Song”

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