agreed that harmony and polyphony are not exclusive to the west. I think the concept of the chord, and the chord progression, might be?
Assuming you're only talking about pre-1920 western music. But also, to be clear: having 12 pitches is indeed unusual, because it's so many. The great majority of musical cultures have fewer.
I mean, fair enough, but I'm more talking about the pitch classes used: you don't have half-sharps, or different degrees of sharpness or flatness at all, you just have 12 equally spaced semitones, and that's at least a concrete feature.
This is very much not true. It only really applies to the majority of music performed in highly formal settings after, say, 1820.
quite so, and it's not even true of a lot of western music today: jazz, for example, which is unambiguously western, is very improvisatory, just like baroque music was. also rock, and the chilean tradition of pallas (a sort of rap battle with guitars and very strict poetic meter and rhyme). but I mean, these days, for the most part, western music is quite precomposed. Like, no tradition is going to be 0% improvisatory, simply because you can't notate every aspect of a musical performance (and also likely because performers want to, well, perform i guess). i think comparatively improvisation is less central and precomposition moreso than in other traditions. (though it'd take actual statistical ethnomusicology to quantify this and say "ok, we're more precompositional than 70% of traditions or something)
This is the opposite of true. Western classical music is very unusual for how rhythmically interesting it is
I think size affects things here: like, there's a lot of western classical that makes very complex things with rhythm, but that's in part because there's just a lot of western classical, but even more of it (not to mention western music in general) is just in 3/4 or 4/4 with good old minims, crotchets and quavers over a relatively simple beat. by contrast, you find polyrhythms everywhere in africa. this doesn't mean complex is better, I enjoy me a nice sarabande as much as the next guy. and our rhythms are not thaaaat square either, maaan.
I do agree that WC, when compared with other western subtraditions, has a great amount of interest in ambiguous or nested rhythms, maybe we're not that boring after all.
there's nothing "funky" about "microtones"
hmmm I feel like there is: in a way, the 12-tone system is a simplification rather than a complication: the number of intervals you have is reduced, and they're all discrete amounts of one fundamental interval the semitone. strict pentatonality, for example, would also be relatively simpler in this sense: by contrast, you're going to find a lot more different types of intervals in more microtonal music. from the perspective of information, say, you need fewer bytes to encode a song (or a bunch of them) if you know you're always going to be using the same five pitch classes: by contrast, you'll find at least 22 pitch classes in indian classical (not used at the same time, thank god xD).
a few more compositional tools that are claimed to be musical universals
* the concept of a tonal center, that is to say, a pitch that is somehow "the core" or "the place to which the melody returns". this is one of those things in music which I can't articulate very objectively and have to resort to these hippie dippie notions of "it's like the melody is *returning* to G maaan" but hey, what can I do. I think I understood this concept more by noodling around on the piano than anything else. in western music, the tonal center is the tonic is the first degree of the scale, and you'll generally start and end the piece on it. you can get cool effects, though, if you try to noodle in, say, C but you start treating E as your tonal center (hint: call it phrygian)
* stepwise motion. i.e. do re mi fa sol being relatively more common than leaps, or at least coming back to stepwise motion after a leap. I don't think you can make a music tradition out of purely leaps, tho, but who knows.
* your scales typically have five to seven pitches, though this is a soft universal.
* scales containing various different intervals: apparently there's no musical traditions that only use the wholetone scale or other symmetrical scales, which is interesting and i didn't expect.
* musical phrases. apparently everyone uses them... though then again, this may be tautological? like, when you've been taught music in phrases, you're gonna see phrases everywhere? who knows.
* the good old fashioned major scale: I don't know if it's a proper universal, but it pops up in a lot of nonwestern traditions. some people claim there are acoustic reasons for this having to do with the overtone series.