Does the music of love sound the same around the world?

The search for musical universals has preoccupied science for over 100 years. Acoustically measurable intervals, such as octaves and fifths, could indeed be detected globally. Strongly functional forms of music, such as dance melodies and lullabies, are also recognized across cultures.

By Britta Sweers 2023/02/14

Britta Sweers ist Professorin für Kulturelle Anthropologie der Musik am Institut für Musikwissenschaft der Universität Bern. Von 2015 bis 2019 war sie Direktorin des Center for Global Studies. Neben der Transformation traditioneller Musik im Kontext der Globalisierung beschäftigt sich ihre aktuelle Forschung mit Soundscapes und dem Klimawandel in der Arktis. © Universität Bern
Bernese musicologist Britta Sweers © University of Bern

But it’s different with love. It may be considered a basic emotion, but it is shaped by many other factors. This is also reflected in music: Without a more precise knowledge of the text, performance and socio-cultural context, love songs are often difficult to identify as such. This is also true of Western popular music, as many textual misunderstandings prove. But, conversely, that’s what’s fascinating about musicology: Love sounds different in every culture and can be discovered in ever new, multifaceted forms of expression.

About the person

Prof. Dr. Britta Sweers

is Professor of Cultural Anthropology of Music at the Institute of Musicology at the University of Bern. From 2015 to 2019, she was Director of the Center for Global Studies. In addition to the transformation of traditional music in the context of globalization, her current research focuses on soundscapes and climate change in the Arctic.

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