Hodges Music is a universal trait of humankind. Throughout the ages it has played a significant role in the lives of people In every part of the globe This can be illustrated by imagining an internal soundtrack for each of the following vignettes. Formalize, Brazil: Nighttime revelers parade down the street by the light of flickering torches. The movements to the cabochons (the dancers) are accompanied by drums, caracal (a scraped gourd), and flutes (Olsen 1980).
Bayonne, New Jersey: A lonely, confused teenager sits brooding In his room The headphones he wears are unconnected to a jamb (tape player), which is playing his favorite rock tapes. Borderland, Ghana: Members of the Farad tribe play on the Degreed (d minestrone’s fiddle) and shake rattles to accompany workers who are cutting grass (Initiate 1974). The workers swing their machetes rhythmically In such a way that the cutting sounds are timed to fall on the mall beats of the music.Order now
Kayaks, Saudi Arabia: As a nervous bride makes last-minute preparations, she can hear the strains of the professional orchestra that has been hired to entertain the wedding guests. The Newbie, d suite of ices, is being played on the Lid (lute), nay (flute), and duff (tambourine) (Apocryphal 1980). Madrid. Spain: Thousands of voices roar as the matador strides into the arena, followed by the bandoleers and placarded Their measured pace Is timed to a opposable played by the band.
Subsequent phases of the bullfight will be introduced or accompanied by the blaring of trumpets Rowers, Belgium: A nun sits n a corner of the convent garden She is strumming lightly on a guitar and humming softly to herself. Mazda-e-Shares, Afghanistan: Mourners gather from all parts of the village at a mass burial tort fallen soldiers. Their dirges are accompanied by the sound to a Ritchie. A twisting lute whose sound box is made of a discarded, rectangular gasoline can (Mall 1967). Yuan, china: Peasant families have been assembled to hear speeches given by visiting political dignitaries.
The ceremonies begin with the appropriate, stratospheres music played over loudspeakers. These examples give some indication to the tremendous amount to music there is in the world and the profound and pervasive influences music exerts on human life. But how do we account for the pervasiveness and universality of human musicality? How did we come to be musical creatures? Is musicality Indeed universal, and, If so, is it inherited or acquired? The purpose to this chapter is to explore some to these fundamental questions. Many of the Issues raised herein will be visited in more detail In subsequent chapters.
For the following discussions, musicality Is defined as a responsiveness or sensitivity to musical stimuli. It also includes an appreciation or understanding of music, but does not necessarily Include technical proficiency In musical performance (George and Hodges 1980). In this regard, all persons possess mom degree of musicality, because everyone responds In some fashion to the music of his or her surrounding culture. Even severely and profoundly retarded Individuals respond to music in a rudimentary way. To be totally musical would require massive, almost total brain damage.
The Musical Significance of Human Nature What Human Musicality By Teleology significant role in the lives of people in every part of the globe. This can be illustrated The movements of the cabochons (the dancers) are accompanied by drums, confused teenager sits brooding in his room. The headphones he wears are unconnected to a Jamb (tape player), which is playing his favorite rock tapes. Borderland, Ghana: Members of the Afar tribe play on the Dogma (a minnesinger The workers swing their machetes rhythmically in such a way that the cutting sounds are timed to fall on the main beats of the music.
Kayaks, Saudi Arabia: As a nervous orchestra that has been hired to entertain the wedding guests. The Anabas, a suite of pieces, is being played on the du (lute), nay (flute), and duff (tambourine) (Apocryphal 1980). Madrid, Spain: Thousands of voices roar as the matador strides into the arena, allowed by the bandoleers and picador’s. Their measured pace is timed to a opposable played by the band. Subsequent phases of the bullfight will be introduced or accompanied by the blaring of trumpets. Rollers, Belgium: A nun sits in a corner of the convent garden.
She is strumming lightly on a guitar and humming softly to herself. Mazda-e-Shari, Afghanistan: Mourners gather from all parts of the village at a mass burial for fallen soldiers. Their dirges are accompanied by the sound of a Ritchie, a two-string lute whose sound box is made of a discarded, rectangular gasoline can (Mall 1967). Yuan, China: Peasant families have been assembled to appropriate, stratospheres music played over loudspeakers. These examples give some indication of the tremendous amount of music there is in the world and the 2 How did we come to be musical creatures?
Is musicality indeed universal, and, if so, is it inherited or acquired? The purpose of this chapter is to explore some of these fundamental questions. Many of the issues raised herein will be visited in more detail in subsequent chapters. For the following discussions, musicality is defined as understanding of music, but does not necessarily include technical proficiency in casual performance (George and Hodges 1980). In this regard, all persons possess some degree of musicality, because everyone responds in some fashion to the music of his or her surrounding culture.
Even severely and profoundly retarded individuals into this uniqueness? Is music separate from humanness, or is there evidence to support a view of music as an integral part of human nature? If we attempt to specify the ways in which human beings are unique and different from other animal species, we must quickly conclude that most, if not all, differences are in degree, not in kind. That is, other animals may possess a particular trait similar to humans, but not to the same extent.
For example, if we say that a distinctive characteristic of humankind is language, it is possible to point to communication among dolphins or the sign language learned by chimpanzees in certain experiments as rudimentary forms of the same behavior. Or if we say that social organizations are a human trait, a parallel might be found in the behaviors of bees or ants. We have elaborate rituals connected with death, but elephants have been observed engaging in what might be called a burial ceremony. Music may even have its animal counterpart in whale song?to a degree.
However, it is the degree of human involvement in such behaviors as language, social organizations, rituals, and music that separates us from other animals. To say that our humanity arises from the degree of involvement we have in a specific behavior rather than the presence of that behavior implies that, while animals may exhibit rudimentary forms of certain human behaviors, differences between the animal and human versions are so vast as to make us unique. Returning to language, it is true that chimpanzees may, in certain laboratory experiments, learn o communicate via sign language.
But it is important to note that they are learning human sign language with the aid of human tutors. Chimpanzees left alone in their natural environment certainly do communicate with each other. However, after millions of years, they still have not developed advanced linguistic skills, and to compare their communication skills with human language is simply to point out the distinctive differences between humans and chimpanzees. L “We” study, write, and talk about “them,” but, except in science fiction, “they” don’t put “us” in labs or stalk s in our natural habitats to learn more about us and our actions. Neither do they hunt us to extinction nor undertake major efforts to preserve us. ) The Bible refers to ants as a model for improving human behavior? “Go to the ant, you sluggard, watch her ways and get wisdom” (Proverbs 6:6). Do the ants ever refer to humans to improve their behavior? Those animals that do 3 mating “dances” do not choreograph new steps for the next season; whale “songs,” for all their haunting loveliness, do not equate with the tremendous outpouring of music from all the world’s people. If human beings are different from animals primarily in degree and not necessarily in kind of behaviors, how then can we be described?
What is the nature of human nature? Such a question has engaged philosophers, scientists, and artists for centuries and is not likely to be answered completely in these pages. However, in order to set the stage for subsequent discussions, ten ways in which human beings are unique will be introduced. Following the more general discussion, some brief remarks about the relationship of music to each unique trait will be made. The ten topics are: biological differences, adaptability, cultural evolution, symbolic behaviors, love, religion, play, technology, knowledge, and aesthetic sensitivity.
Biological Differences As Eagle indicated in characteristics. For example, the genetic material for all living things that provides the instructions necessary for reproduction is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Such primates as chimpanzees and apes are our closest relatives, so close that the genetic difference between man and chimpanzees is less than 2 percent and it takes a sophisticated biochemical analysis of our blood and that of a gorilla to tell the difference (Bobbed and McKee 1994). Yet human beings are clearly recognizable as a species.
Anatomically, the human hand is similar to that of a monkey species that lived 25 million years ago. However, even minor differences can have major consequences. For example, a gorilla’s hand is long and slender with a short, stubby thumb; our hands are short with long thumbs. Our longer thumb allows for a precision grip with the index finger and makes possible the manipulation of microelectronic in neurosurgery and other similar feats of dexterity, such as playing the piano. Another example of an anatomical difference that also has profound uniqueness is found in the larynx.
We have a vocal tract that allows us to speak and sing; no other primate can. Human beings also differ from other animals in the degree to which our behavior is controlled by inborn instructions. In birds, for example, such complex behaviors as nest building, flying south for the winter, and “singing” are largely the product of genetic hardwiring. In terms of behavior, human beings inherit reflexes such as eye blinking and startle responses, basic expressive responses such as blushing and smiling, and life-sustaining actions such as suckling and swallowing. However, more complex behavior patterns are learned, not instinctive.
In comparison to birds, we do not build houses, travel, or sing in a genetically predetermined manner. Anatomical variations and freedom from instincts notwithstanding, the most important difference between humans and other animals is our brain power. Those behaviors that make us distinctively human?language, art, religion, technology, and so on?are all generated from an enormous reservoir of potential. We start life with nearly three-fourths of the brain uncommitted to specific tasks, and there seem to be few limitations on what or how much might be learned Barb 1978; Springer and Deutsche 1989). Thus, it is our human biological potential that makes music possible. We are musical creatures because of our physical and mental makeup. Further exploration of this idea will be undertaken in considerable detail in subsequent chapters. Adaptability Most animals have a physical specialty. Jaguars are capable of blinding speed, eagles have incredible eyesight, bats fly by means of sophisticated echolocation. Human beings, it might be said, are mental specialists and physical generalists. That is, rather than coming to rely on brute strength, fast running, or a en sense of smell, we opted for no particular physical specialty.
In order to survive, we came to rely on quick wits and an ability to gain an advantage through mental means. Tremendous intellectual capabilities (including enormous amounts of uncommitted brain power), combined with a lack of predetermined behavior patterns (instincts) and a lack of reliance on a specific physical trait have given us freedoms that no other animals have. We have a freedom to become or to do nearly anything that we can conceive. Said another way, we are enormously plastic creatures. We depths of oceans to outer space.
While other animals are destined to lead a lifestyle appropriate for their species, we have lived as nomads, nuns, and whalers. Another way of describing human adaptability is through a term used by Rene Dubos in his book, Celebrations of Life (1981). The term he used is invariants and he used it to describe how human beings everywhere can be so much the same and yet so very different. As human beings we all have certain invariant needs, but the way in which those needs are satisfied varies tremendously from group to group. The need for food is an invariant, as it is for all animals.
But contrast the consistency of diet among members of a particular animal species with the variety in human diets. From vegetables to insects, human beings exhibit an amazing proclivity toward eating nearly anything that is edible. The need for food is an invariant, but particular diets are not. An interesting time can be had by considering the multitudinous ways we realize other invariants?shelter: from igloo to marble palace; clothing: from Scottish kilt to Japanese kimono, and so on through a long list. All these invariants provide illustrations of human adaptability.
Art is another human invariant; people in all times and in all places sing, draw, and dance. Our plasticity has led us to create sand paintings and stained-glass windows, limericks and novels, square dances and grand ballet, the huge stone heads on Easter Island and miniature ivory carvings of the Orient. In music we have the simplicity and immediacy of the African thumb piano as well as the complexity and grandeur of the pipe organ. We have the musical background to 1 5-second television commercials and four-hour Chinese operas. We are in art, as in all things, highly adaptable creatures.
Cultural Evolution Another of the clearly distinguishing marks of humanity is the fact that we are the only species engaged in cultural evolution in addition to biological evolution. The general idea behind biological evolution is that organisms possessing an attribute beneficial to survival generally live longer and are thus more likely to confer the 5 same attribute to their descendents. Over hundreds of thousands or even millions of years, that attribute may come to be characteristic of all the members of a species ? all elephants have trunks, for example.
Human beings were originally shaped by illogical evolution. However, at some point in our history, we began to override the system. We did this by changing our environment rather than having it change us (Dubos 1974; Prefer 1969). Animals trying to exist in arctic climates developed various protective devices, such as heavy fur coats and thick layers of blubber, to combat the frigid temperatures. Humans caught in the same situation did not grow thick coverings of hair (though they did undergo some minor changes, such as the development of a slightly thicker layer of subcutaneous fat).
Rather, they modified the environment; they created parkas and igloos and other means of surviving the bitter cold. Even now we continue to evolve primarily through cultural adaptations. Human culture includes all of our socially transmitted behavior patterns. Thus, our political, social, educational, economic, and religious institutions are a part of culture, as are all other products of human thought. Also included in every culture are ways of enriching the sensory environment. Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures are all manipulated, experimented with, and controlled to a certain degree.
This interaction lows each generation to benefit from the accomplishments of the parent generation. Lamarckian, a nineteenth century French biologist, believed that children inherited the acquired attributes of their parents. While this is clearly not true, it is true that much of human progress has been the result of a patient accumulation of knowledge over many generations. Even the quantum leaps made by such intellectual giants as Newton or Einstein were possible because of the foundations laid by others. Cooperation is a trait that, while observed in other species, has become a hallmark of human cultural evolution.
We have often succeeded because of cooperative efforts. Division of labor is a means of allowing individuals time to devote to a task that may benefit the whole group. Contemporary societies continue to depend heavily on cooperation, perhaps even more than ever before. Cooperation is also a prime requisite for group activities, such as athletic contests and music making. Culture is important in another way. Human beings are automatically biological members of the human race, but we must learn to behave as other humans do.
The stored knowledge of a society allows each individual to become acculturated into that society. Learning to control bodily functions, walk, and talk, all require interactions with other human beings. Music can play an important role in the acculturation process. For example, being aware of the latest top 40 tunes is an important way for a teenager to be accepted by a peer group. Art has clearly played a major role in cultural evolution. Different groups of people in different times and places can be identified through their art works. Studying a group’s art provides unique insights into their character.
In fact, it is not possible to know a tribe or nation fully without considering its art. Symbolic Behaviors One readily identifiable mark of human uniqueness is our highly developed capacity for symbolic behavior. This is perhaps most evident in our use of language. 6 Language makes it possible for us to communicate a wealth of ideas?from the functionality of the telephone book to the imagery of poetry. But while language is indispensable to human lifestyles, it is, nonetheless, inadequate for expressing the full range of human thought and feeling.
In addition to language, we have developed a broad range of nonverbal symbolic behaviors, including mathematical symbols and imputer languages, body language, and art. Symbols such as hair style, body adornments, and mode of dress can communicate an enormous amount of information about an individual or a group of people. Religious tenets are often expressed in a powerful way through symbols?the Star of David or the Crucifix are but two of many familiar examples. Nonverbal forms of communication would be unnecessary if we could express everything with words.
However, nonverbal communication not only supplements and extends verbal communication, as in the use of gestures while speaking, but also provides for distinct modes of expression. Art provides a way of knowing and feeling that is not possible through any other means. What is gained through an art experience can be discussed, analyzed, or shared verbally, but cannot be experienced verbally. Thus, a totem pole, portrait, or national anthem are artistic symbols that give humankind tremendously powerful means of communicating and sharing.
Love Perhaps more than any other attribute between humankind and other animals are ones more of degree than of kind. Any animal observer can certainly attest to the fact of loving behaviors among animals. Thus, rather than speculate on whether human beings love more than other animals do, suffice it to say that human beings have a tremendous need to love and to be loved. In fact, love is so important to human beings that without it we suffer severe physical and psychological consequences. Many illnesses might be traced to disabilities in the giving and receiving of love.
Because it is so crucial to us, we have developed many ways of sharing and expressing love. We murmur terms of endearment and struggle to articulate inner feelings in poetic verse. The sense of touch is vitally important in our expressions of love. Music, too, is an often-used vehicle. From the singing of lullabies to the crooning of love ballads, from the use of funeral dirges or wedding songs, music is a powerful means of communicating love from one to another. Alma matters, national anthems, and hymns are examples of ways we use music to express love of school and friends, love of country, and love of God.
Play Human beings spend enormous amounts of time engaging in activities that do not seem at first glance to be necessary for biological survival. Even the amount of time we spend daydreaming while supposedly “at work” gives us evidence of that. Beyond daydreaming, there are many other activities we could list under a generic term such as play: athletic contests, reading, watching television, even visiting or gossiping with one another. 7 Celebrations, a formalized style of play, represent another of the human invariants that were discussed previously.
All over the world, human beings find almost any excuse to celebrate. Beside obvious celebrations such as birthdays, weddings, and religious holidays, we celebrate the coming of spring, important battles, and the gathering of the harvest. Celebrations are very much a part of human nature; kisses, singing and dancing are integral parts of celebrations. Indeed, it is difficult to think of any celebrations that have no music. That art and celebrations are interrelated is perhaps supportive of a particular viewpoint of the nature of art. In this view, art is a type of creative play (Prefer 1969).
Human beings are quite naturally intrigued by the surprise, adventure, and experimentation that come with the manipulation of objects, ideas, and sensory materials. Our very creativity is born of this sense of adventure and it brings us pleasure. In music, manipulating and experimenting with sounds is at the root of compositional activity. Humor is a special kind of play. Whether physical comedy as in slapstick, or mental humor as in puns, we take great delight in twists and variations on the expected. There are many pieces of music in which the unexpected is likewise intended to elicit a mirthful response.
Mozart Musical Joke is but one example. Religion Humankind is clearly marked by its spiritual nature. The need to consider a power beyond our own is so universal that it is deeply ingrained in human nature. While each of us must wrestle with the eternal questions?Who put us here? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? ?societies have deemed the issues important enough that certain members of the community are assigned responsibility for such matters. Priest, shaman, rabbi, prophet, monk, muezzin?all are set aside to pursue answers to spiritual questions. Artifacts connected with burial rituals that indicate some sense of concern for the spirits of the dead as long as 60,000 years ago (Constable 1973). Even from the beginnings, as far as we have any knowledge of it, and certainly in all the practices since then, music has been a part of religious worship. This is so because language is inadequate to express fully our spiritual feelings; music can take us beyond the confines of words. Perhaps music and religion are so intertwined because both deal primarily with internal feelings rather than external facts.
Whatever the reasons, religious beliefs and the expression of these beliefs through music are a ubiquitous fact of human nature. Technology From the time we learned to control and use fire to the time of computerizing, humankind has been most conspicuous by our technological inventions. We are a tailgating species and we seem always to be seeking ways to do a task easier, faster, better. Tools have extended our capabilities far beyond our physical limitations. It is entirely in keeping with our nature that we extend our tailgating into other areas of life than work.
Consider athletics, for example; we are constantly improving on athletic “tools” that, within the rules, will give us an edge on the 8 competition. The pole used in pole vaulting has changed in recent years from a rigid bamboo pole to a more pliant steel pole and finally to a highly flexible fiberglass pole. Golf balls that will fly farther, tennis rackets with a larger “sweet spot,” training devices with more and more gadgets, are all examples. Tools are used in music, too. In fact, all instruments are “tools” used to create sounds beyond the scope of the human voice.
There is another connection between art and tools. Tools have always been made with an eye to something beyond functional design. Spear points and axe handles are created with attention to shape. Jugs?”tools” for carrying water?are shaped in a manner and with a flair that are not necessary for utilitarian purposes, but seem to be necessary for human pleasure. Some anthropologists even consider that the bow was first a musical instrument before it became a weapon. Other genealogical advances had their genesis in artistic pursuits. Techniques in metallurgy, welding and ceramics are but three examples.
Barb even states explicitly that “the great advances in technology would obviously have been impossible without the human urge to explore new directions in artistic creativity” (Barb 1978, 75). Knowledge One of the unique traits of humankind is a natural propensity for seeking knowledge. Concepts of the human infant as a tabular Rasa or as a passive organism reacting only to the environment are wrong. We are active seekers of knowledge. It is basic to human nature to be curious, to wonder, to explore, to covers. Knowledge can be gained through all the sense modalities.
We can learn about our world by touch; for the blind this becomes an important avenue of information, a substitute way of “seeing. ” Babies, in particular, explore their world through taste; everything goes immediately into the mouth. Smelling may seem like a less important means of gathering knowledge, but we can “know” something about a stranger based on body odor. Because the olfactory lobes are in close proximity to the site of long-term memory storage, remembrances of past events are often triggered by odors. Vision and hearing are primary means of gathering knowledge. Egging to function in the last few months of fetal development and babies recognize the sounds of their mother’s voice within a few days, if not sooner. Notice that what the baby “knows” about mother is not factual information but feelings? feelings associated with security and pleasure. This is an important concept to remember? that knowledge involves far more than facts. Music is an important way of knowing. Think, for a moment, of all the things one can learn or know through nursery songs, religious music, popular and commercial music (including music used in advertising, ivies, and television shows), folk music, and art music.
On a superficial level, one can learn the alphabet through music. At a deeper level, one can learn about foreign cultures through music. Finally, at perhaps the deepest level, one can learn more about oneself and gain insights into the human condition through music. Aesthetic Sensitivity 9 In all times and in all places, human beings have sought to create beauty. The variety of ways we have done so is nothing short of staggering. We have decorated our own bodies in nearly every way conceivable (though future generations will find still more ways).
We have inserted disks in our lips, scarified and tattooed our arms and trunks, bound our feet, and stretched our necks. No part of our bodies has been immune from this process?we have painted our toenails and twisted, combed, shaped, and colored our hair into innumerable styles. Lest describing it in this way seems more like the behavior of aborigines than modern, sophisticated Americans, consider that one of the “rages” of recent years has been the tanning parlor. For a sum of money, a person can step into a booth with virtually no clothes on, push some buttons, and toast his skin to Just the right shade.
What we have done to our bodies we have done to clothes, food, and dwellings. Beyond the decoration of our surroundings, human beings have always and everywhere explored every mode of sensory experience with an aesthetic sensitivity that is supremely characteristic of our species. The manipulation of sound, sight, space, and movement?the arts?have given us tremendous insights into the human condition and brought us much pleasure in the process. To be human is to have the potential of perceiving and responding to artistic experiences with a depth of feeling.
We are as much aesthetic rattles as we are physical, social, intellectual, emotional, and religious beings. Summary Human beings differ from other animals primarily in the extent to which we engage in certain behaviors. An overview of these differences has been presented under the following ten topics. Biological Differences Human beings are biologically unique in several important ways, including our freedom from instinctive behaviors and anatomical differences. However, the biological potential of our brains is what most separates us from the other animals. Adaptability Human beings are unique because of our high degree of adaptability.
We have no physical specialty but are mental specialists instead. The concept of invariants is useful in understanding how human beings express common needs in an infinite variety of behaviors. We are not bound to live our lives in a prescribed manner due to genetic programming, but we are free to adapt to many different lifestyles. Cultural Evolution We are the only animal species engaged in cultural evolution. Culture is the vehicle by which we accomplishments with each new generation. Symbolic Behaviors Verbal language is a very distinctive mark of our humanity.
It allows us to communicate and express Hough with precision or with imagery. We also have a broad repertoire of nonverbal symbolic behaviors. These are useful not only for supplementing words but also for expressing ourselves in ways that are impossible through words. 10 Love Human beings have a strong need to give and to receive love. The loving process is critical to the development and maintenance of a healthy personality. As is fitting with so important a behavior, we have devised numerous ways of sharing and expressing love. Play Play is not only pleasurable, it is an important and necessary part of human life.
Play, in the formalized sense of celebrations, occupies a central place in all human cultures. Creative play comes from the manipulation of the sensory environment and contains elements of surprise and adventure. Play as humor is also found everywhere. Religion The need human beings have to worship seems to be so ingrained as to be a universal trait. As groups of people and as individuals, all human beings have considered questions of a spiritual nature. So important is our spiritual nature, that certain individuals within each group are set aside to handle matters of religious concern.
Technology Sometimes we have been ladled the toolmaker. Our technological achievements have allowed us to make progress in nearly every field of human endeavor. Knowledge Human beings are characterized by their thirst for knowledge. We are designed to be curious creatures. Our natural inquisitiveness has driven us to create a wide variety of ways of knowing. Aesthetic Sensitivity The human race has always been concerned with the notion of beauty. We are moved by the beauty we experience in our natural world and also by that which we have created. Creating and/or responding to beauty is part and parcel of being human.
These, then, are some of the ways we are unique. While this is but a brief introduction, the significant role that music plays in human nature should already be apparent. Music is not a separate, trivial, side issue of being human; rather, musicality is at the core of what it means to be human. As Thomas has stated: I believe fervently in our species and have no patience with the current fashion of running down the human being as a useful part of nature. On the contrary, we are a spectacular, splendid manifestation of life. We have language and can build metaphors as skillfully and precisely as ribosome make proteins. We have affection.
We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a “common goal” for all of nature as I can guess at. And finally, and perhaps best of all, we have music. Any species capable of producing, at this earliest, Juvenile stage of its development? almost instantly after emerging on the earth by any evolutionary 1 1 standard?the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, cannot be all bad. (Thomas 1979, 16- 17) Why Are We Musical? Speculations on the Evolutionary Plausibility of Musical Behavior In considering the nature of human musicality, one might reasonably wonder why we are musical at all and how did we come to be this way?
Oddly enough, there are frequent statements in the literature that make it appear as if there is no known reason for music. 2 “Musical skills are not essential so far as we significance” (Dowling and Hardwood 1986, 202). One “might ask why evolution should have provided us with such complex innate machinery, for which there is no evident survival value” (Leeward and Jackknifed 1983, 232-33). “Why do we respond emotionally to music, when the messages therein seem to be of no obvious survival value? ” (Reordered 1982, 38). “Why do we have music, and let it occupy our lives with no apparent reason? ” (Minsk 1982, 12).
These statements are all the more puzzling since it is becoming increasingly clear that every human being has “a biologic guarantee of musicianship” (Wilson 1986, 2). This is so because genetic instructions create a brain and body that are predisposed to be musical. Just as we are born to be linguistic, with the specific language to be learned determined by the culture, so we are born with the means to be responsive to the music of our culture. If music does not confer any survival benefits, why would it be provided for in our neurophysiology structures? Why would it have developed to the point where it is a universal trait of our species?
A place to begin looking for answers is with the central focus of evolutionary theory. Attributes that confer survival benefits upon members of a species, whether arrived at through genetic mutation or adaptation to the environment, are passed on to offspring. Stronger members of a species, by virtue of these attributes, are more likely to live longer and to produce more offspring; thus, the attributes they possess are more likely to be promoted until such time as all members of the species possess the same attributes. In this way did the cheetah get TTS speed and the giraffe its long neck.
One way of getting at the evolutionary basis for music is to look at the primary element of all music, rhythm. Before proceeding any further, however, a cautionary note must be put forward. While the following discussion is as based on data as possible, much of it is speculative. Because the earliest examples of musical behavior left no facsimiled remains, there are no records, no direct vestiges. There are many secondary sources from which to deduce early musical behaviors. 3 But in the final analysis, all one can offer is a best guess based on the scant information available.
Rhythm, a Fundamental Life Process One of the tenets of quantum physics is that everything that exists is in a state of vibration. Atoms vibrate at rates of a million billion times per second, while the sun vibrates with a period of five minutes (Chin 1983, 392). Heliography’s is the study of the sun’s oscillations and astronomers tell us that the galaxies and the entire universe are in states of vibration. 12 Human beings live in what we perceive to be a rhythmic environment, based on observations of periodicities. Seasons of the year, phases of the moon, and periods of daylight and dark follow in regular, timely patterns.
Our bodies, too, operate on rhythmic patterns. Heart and breathing rates are two of the more obvious bodily processes that are periodic. Brain waves, hormonal outputs, and sleeping patterns are examples of the more than 100 complex oscillations monitored by the brain (Barb 1978, 293). Chronologists, those who study body rhythms, believe that rhythm is such an important part of life that a lack of it can indicate illness. For example, complex forms of dysphasia may be a symptom of autism, manic depression, or schizophrenia; dysphasia can also indicate dyslexia or other learning disabilities