The slightly universal language?

A fascinating study on music, emotion, and cultural encounters—click through to hear some of the audio clips used, including some traditional Mala music. Still, I worry that your average lay reader might take it as proof of the feel-good, world-music-fueled idea that “music is the universal language” while the researchers’ actual conclusion is a lot more limited: music was mildly effective in conveying emotion in one direction between two specific, very different cultures: more so than a spoken sentence, but less so than a smile or frown.

a post, 17 April 2009

When western music was played to members of the Mafa people from Cameroon who have never been exposed to western music, movies, or art, they were able to recognize the emotions conveyed by the music, even though the Mafa don’t associate emotions with their own music.

Originally published at

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