Music Developed to Bring Us Together, Says New Study


Why did humans start making music? Some say it was a sort of mating call. Others suggest we used rhythm and loud noise to scare off predators. But a new study found songs from all over the world share many common features, like rhythm and pitch, lending some validity to another theory: music developed as a way to bring communities together.

"It may be a little bit of a no-brainer, but for a long time, I think, people had this idea of music being an individual expression," says Pat Savage, a PhD student from the Tokyo University of the Arts and the lead author of the new study. "But throughout the world, it’s almost always in groups and seems to almost always be about bonding these groups together."

Using the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, an online repository for global music research, Savage listened to and scrutinized 304 very different songs from nine regions: Africa, South America, east Asia, south Asia, southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Oceania. He classified each song based on 32 musical features, including the number of beats, the kind of singing voice, and even the sex of the performers. This had to be done manually. "Technology has a long way to go," Savage says. "It’s not anywhere near as good as human ear."

Savage identified 18 features that are predominant throughout the world’s songs. These include discrete pitches (where each note is expressed individually, rather than sliding from one note to another) and equally timed beats.

Listen to an example: a Palestinian line dance called "Sahjih" contains all of these features. And on the other end of the spectrum, here’s a song from Papua New Guinea that is an extreme outlier because it has no discrete pitch or timed beat.

Male performers tend to dominate throughout the world, the research showed, reflecting the restrictions on women in many cultures. "We don’t think this is biological or wired into our genes that women can’t make music," Savage explains. "Certainly women are great at making music when they’re allowed to. It’s a cultural thing."

Savage also found 10 features that appear together. "These individual features themselves are not always there, but when they are, they appear in tandem," he says. For example, dance doesn’t appear frequently, but when it does, it’s almost always accompanied by simple repetitive phrases, percussion, a regular beat, and group performance.

"The results show that the most common features seen in music around the world relate to things that allow people to coordinate their actions," says co-author Thomas Currie, of the University of Exeter, "and suggest that the main function of music is to bring people together and bond social groups. It can be a kind of social glue."

A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

When Chuck Yeager Tweeted Details About His Historic, Sound Barrier-Breaking Flight

Seventy years ago today—on October 14, 1947—Charles Elwood Yeager became the first person to travel faster than the speed of sound. The Air Force pilot broke the sound barrier in an experimental X-1 rocket plane (nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis”) over a California dry lake at an altitude of 25,000 feet.

In 2015, the nonagenarian posted a few details on Twitter surrounding the anniversary of the achievement, giving amazing insight into the history-making flight.

For even more on the historic ride, check out the video below.


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