Thursday, October 29, 2009

Speculations on the Development of Music

We follow the leads of crudely drawn cave paintings documenting instruments as early and 3500 BC but this doesn't even touch on a vocal tradition. So how did music develop? Why would it develop? There have been many theories of the evolution of musical behavior in human beings. The article "is music an evolutionary adaptation?" by David Huron poses several theories for possible evolutionary reasons for music: mate selection, social cohesion, Group effort, perceptual development, motor skill development, conflict resolution, and safe time passing Trans-generational communication. Darwin would have us believe that because musicians possessed these traits that they were more more fit and therefore had better chances of survival. I think all may have assisted but find the last one (Trans-generational communication) particularly interesting. Music might have developed separately from speech or it may have developed in unison. Perhaps music was speech. Instances of the Nigerian talking drum or the importance of pitch material in some Asian speech point towards grouping the two into the larger category of communication. I personally found the Peter Marler article "Origins of music: Insights from Animals" to be much more useful than the evolution spill. Origins of music are difficult again because music itself is hard to define. John Cage would say that the sound of the world surrounding us is music and that there could never be a moment of life without a musical accompaniment in which case God would be the originator of the first never ending composition. In Mythology, Humans received songs from the gods. I would like to keep this in mind as I take my stance on the idea that music developed along the same lines as any other communication, however it it is a higher form of communication. I had a guitar teacher several years ago say the first musicians were gods, then they were kings, and now look at us barely scraping by. I have heard of some tribes blinding there musician because he was the recorder of time and history and was to valuable have him wondering off. Musicians often played the role of shamans and music itself was often the direct link to the Gods. Where oxytocin and NAPS plays into that, I don't want to get into. Music itself has been used in so many cross cultural religious activities that it must be either a really catchy idea or maybe it is innate, may be it is a communication link between humans and God.