Why Do People Make Music?

There are as many kinds of music as their are kinds of people. Seriously—every culture on Earth plays some form of music. But what is music, and why are we so compelled to make and listen to it? A study that culled data from unrelated musical genres from all over the world identified a certain set of "universals" that tie all of those disparate types together. Things like keeping a steady beat, preferring two- and three-beat rhythms, and combining weak and strong beats are universal across cultures. Even more incredibly, researchers tasked a group of non-musicians to repeat a random, computer-generated rhythmic pattern, and it didn't take long for those same universals to raise their heads in the attempt. That might mean that we are biologically disposed towards music making. In other words, like En Vogue, we might all be born to sing.

Is there something you're curious about? Send us a note or email us at editors (at) And follow Curiosity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Music "Universals" Emerge In Telephone Game Experiment

Do Animals Like Music?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Anthropologists have yet to find a culture that did not enjoy music. 00:34

Why Does Music Move Us?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Steven Pinker calls music "auditory cheesecake." We didn't evolve to love cheesecake specifically; we evolved to love anything sweet or high-calorie, so cheesecake is a side-effect of our evolution. Music, likewise, is a side effect of our need for language and a sense of our surroundings. 00:46

  2. A study by neuroscientist Talia Wheeley found that we may read emotion in music the same way we read emotion in human movement. 02:20

  3. Just as we can sense emotion by watching someone walk or dance, we can identify when a song is happy or sad. Music seems to move us because we move. 04:01

Written by Curiosity Staff May 5, 2017

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.