Form and Function in Human Song

Here’s a recent open access paper in Current Biology along with a journalistic write-up in The Harvard Gazette.

The present research provides evidence for the existence of recurrent, perceptible features of three domains of vocal music across 86 human societies and for the striking consistency of form-function percepts across listeners from around the globe—listeners who presumably know little or nothing about the music of indigenous peoples. Moreover, these studies suggest that song types differ from each other on the basis of both contextual and musical features, but musical features tend to be more predictive of form-function inferences than contextual features.