Behind music’s role in human evolution

Posted on: July 5, 2017

“It’s a question that has intrigued thinkers across the ages from Socrates to Schopenhauer: why is it that abstract patterns of sound mean so very much to human beings?” writes Adam Ockelford in Sunday’s (7/2) Guardian (U.K.). “Music is unique in its power to stir the emotions. As music therapists’ work with dementia patients and autistic children has shown, music has the capacity to touch us and tap into memories that words alone are not able to reach. But how? … Music conveys meaning since all its constituent sounds—notes—elicit tiny emotional responses, and these are locked together in a coherent narrative through imitation.… Unlike language, notes are free to convey pure emotion, unfettered by the need to be understood.… Many of the core cognitive traits required for musical understanding stem from an evolutionary need—one being the ability to detect difference and similarity around us: what looks the same, smells and tastes the same, also sounds the same, and therefore is the same.… There is increasing recognition, too, of the potential role of music in the development of empathy… Music can bind us together as families, as tribes and as societies in a way that nothing else can.”

Posted July 5, 2017