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FW: Book Review - The Origins of Music

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  • Popplestone, Ann
    ... From: Danny Yee [mailto:danny@ANATOMY.USYD.EDU.AU] Sent: Sunday, August 13, 2000 1:58 AM To: ANTHRO-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU Subject: Book Review - The
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      FW: Book Review - The Origins of Music

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Danny Yee [mailto:danny@...]
      Sent: Sunday, August 13, 2000 1:58 AM
      To: ANTHRO-L@...
      Subject: Book Review - The Origins of Music

      An HTML version of this book review can be found at
      along with more than five hundred other reviews.

       TITLE: The Origins of Music
       EDITORS: Nils L. Wallin, Björn Merker + Steven Brown
       PUBLISHER: The MIT Press 2000
       OTHER: 498 pages, references, index

      _The Origins of Music_ brings together papers on subjects ranging
      from birdsong to neurobiology to fossil flutes to musical universals.
      Music rarely gets even a passing mention in work on human evolution,
      while evolutionary approaches in musicology are even rarer, so such a
      volume offers challenges to both musicologists and paleoanthropologists.
      Indeed the editors hope to see the start of an evolutionary musicology,
      a subfield of biomusicology "devoted to the analysis of music evolution,
      both its biological and cultural forms".  _The Origins of Music_ deserves
      wide interdisciplinary attention.

      After an introduction to evolutionary musicology by the editors, the
      other papers are grouped into four sections.  The first focuses on vocal
      communication in animals.  General papers by Simha Arom and Peter Marler
      are followed by papers on birdsong repertoire (Peter J. B. Slater) and
      its neural basis (Carol Whaling), perception and production of primate
      vocalizations (Marc D. Hauser), gibbon songs/duets (Thomas Geissmann),
      the role of social organisation in primate vocal communications (Maria
      Ujhelyi), and creativity in the songs of humpback whales (Katharine

              Any similarity between birdsong and human music is by analogy,
              as vocal learning evolved quite differently in the two cases.
              As there are around 4,000 species of songbirds with a rich variety
              of vocal patterning, the occurrence of some with features also
              found in our music does not necessarily imply a deep similarity
              between the phenomena. (Slater)

      The papers in the second section look broadly at music and language in
      human evolution.  Derek Bickerton suggests some lessons biomusicologists
      can learn from the history of "language evolution studies".  Jean Molino
      argues that music and language (and dance, chant, poetry, and pretend
      play) have at least in part a common origin.  Harry Jerison explores
      homologies in the paleoneurology of mammalian and bird brains, but
      concludes that "the evocative role of music in human experience is
      directly related to language as a specifically human adaptation".
      Dean Falk looks at what the latest technology reveals about the regions
      of the brain involved in music and language.  And, in a long paper which
      I only glanced through, Drago Kunej and Ivan Turk analyse a possible
      "flute" from the Middle Paleolithic.

              Because music and language are so neurologically intertwined, it
              is hypothesized that they evolved together as brain size increased
              during the past two million years in the genus _Homo_. (Falk)

      The papers in the third section present different theories for the origin
      of music.  Steven Brown presents a "musilanguage" model in which music
      and language evolved from a common ancestor; Bruce Richman argues that
      both originated in collective repetition of formulaic sequences; and
      Björn Merker suggests that synchronous chorusing was a key adaptation in
      human evolution.  Geoffrey Miller argues that music must have originated
      through sexual selection and Peter Todd looks at simulation of coevolution
      between "male song producers and female song critics".  In contrast,
      Ellen Dissanayake suggests music needs to be considered as part of the
      "temporal arts" more broadly and that the key to their evolution lies
      in interactions between mothers and infants under six months of age.
      And Walter Freeman ranges from neurobiology and brain chemistry, through
      altered states of consciousness, to cooperative action and links between
      music and politics.

              I took random samples of... jazz albums... rock albums... and
              classical music works... [M]ales produced ten times as much music
              as females, and their musical output peaked in young adulthood,
              around age thirty, near the time of peak mating effort... [This
              suggests] that music evolved and continues to function as a
              courtship display, mostly broadcast by young males to attract
              females. (Miller)

              [I]t is in the evolution of affiliative interactions between
              mothers and infants -- not male competition and adult courtship
              -- that we can discover the origins of the competencies and
              sensitivities that gave rise to human music. (Dissanayake)

      Four papers at the end are grouped in a section "Musical Universals".
      Sandra Trehub looks at human predispositions for processing music
      and Michel Imberty connects the generative theory of tonal music with
      innate competencies, while Bruno Nettl presents an ethnomusicologist's
      perspective on universals and François-Bernard Mâche that of a composer.

              I can only say, as a composer, that _Craticus nigrogularis_,
              the pied butcher bird, is a kind of colleague. (Mâche)


      %T      The Origins of Music
      %E      Wallin, Nils L.
      %E      Merker, Björn
      %E      Brown, Steven
      %I      The MIT Press
      %C      Cambridge, Massachusetts
      %D      2000
      %O      hardcover, references, index
      %G      ISBN 0-262-23206-5
      %P      xii,498pp
      %U      http://mitpress.mit.edu/book-home.tcl?isbn=0262232065
      %K      palaeoanthropology, music, linguistics

      13 August 2000

              Copyright (c) 2000 Danny Yee <editor@...>
              Danny Yee's Book Reviews      http://dannyreviews.com/

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