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Review
, 370 (1664), 20140096

Cross-cultural Perspectives on Music and Musicality

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Review

Cross-cultural Perspectives on Music and Musicality

Sandra E Trehub et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.

Abstract

Musical behaviours are universal across human populations and, at the same time, highly diverse in their structures, roles and cultural interpretations. Although laboratory studies of isolated listeners and music-makers have yielded important insights into sensorimotor and cognitive skills and their neural underpinnings, they have revealed little about the broader significance of music for individuals, peer groups and communities. This review presents a sampling of musical forms and coordinated musical activity across cultures, with the aim of highlighting key similarities and differences. The focus is on scholarly and everyday ideas about music--what it is and where it originates--as well the antiquity of music and the contribution of musical behaviour to ritual activity, social organization, caregiving and group cohesion. Synchronous arousal, action synchrony and imitative behaviours are among the means by which music facilitates social bonding. The commonalities and differences in musical forms and functions across cultures suggest new directions for ethnomusicology, music cognition and neuroscience, and a pivot away from the predominant scientific focus on instrumental music in the Western European tradition.

Keywords: antiquity; cross-cultural; music; ritual; social cohesion.

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