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Music and Evolution


... The distinction between relative and absolute pitch Melody recognition Scale structure Musical intervals Lullabies Evidence for innate mechanisms in music ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Music and Evolution

Music and Evolution
  • View music from evolutionary perspective
  • From an evolutionary perspective, ask question
    why is there music at all?
  • Parallel with Chomskys analysis of language
  • Problem of grammaticality
  • All speakers can make distinctions implies
    operation of principles that define sentence
  • Principles are unconscious knowledge of
  • Chomskys framework devoted to understanding
  • Music is superficially similar to language
  • Recognize musical from non-musical
  • Idea of knowledge of music

Three main questions about music and evolution
  • What is the initial, innate state of knowledge
    about music prior to experience?
  • Idea of universal constraints
  • Ex, Idea of scale structure
  • How is this initial state of knowledge
    transformed by relevant experience into the
    mature state of knowledge?
  • Is there a critical period for acquisition of
    musical knowledge?
  • Is there a poverty of the stimulus problem?
  • Problem of grammaticality
  • What is the evolutionary history of the initial
    state and the acquisition processes that guide
    the development of musical knowledge?
  • Question of music as an adaptation

The evolution of music
  • Is music an adaptation?
  • Adaptation a feature that becomes important for
    the survival and reproduction of the organism
  • In what way is music adaptive

The evolution of music
  • Steven Pinkers, How the mind works (1997)
  • The arts have two functions instruction and
  • Instruction may have adaptive value
  • Music is primarily entertainment
  • The arts respond to a biologically pointless
    challenge figuring out how to get at the
    pleasure circuits of the brain and deliver little
    jolts of enjoyment without the inconvenience of
    wringing bona fide fitness increments from the
    harsh world (p. 524)
  • music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite
    confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots
    of at least six of our mental faculties (p. 534)
  • Compared with language, vision, social
    reasoning, and physical know-how, music could
    vanish from our species and the rest of our
    lifestyle would be virtually unchanged. Music
    appears to be a pure pleasure technology, a
    cocktail of recreational drugs that we ingest
    through the ear to stimulate a mass of pleasure
    circuits at once" (p. 528).

The adaptive functions of music
  • Music promotes group cohesion
  • Music developed from mother-infant bonding
  • Strengthens emotional bonds
  • Music transmits emotional information to a group
    of people simultaneously
  • Music is a product of group selection
  • Individual interests often served by co-operating
    rather than competition with other individuals of
  • Thus, likelihood of individual surviving and
    procreating depends on cultural fitness, how
    they behave in relation to others in social group
  • Music promotes sexual selection
  • musical behaviors indicate sexual fitness on
    variety of levels (Miller, 2000a, 2000b)

Evidence for innate mechanisms in music
  • Developmental evidence
  • Difficulties with interpreting developmental
  • Issues with idea of lack of exposure
  • Issues with methodology
  • Developmental evidence of innate sensitivity to
    musical structure
  • Sensitivity to basic musical parameters pitch,
    intervals, contour, rhythm
  • Issue of rapid learning and experience in utero

Evidence for innate mechanisms in music
  • Cross-cultural evidence
  • Two lines of investigation
  • Search for cross-cultural universals
  • Music in ancient cultures
  • Cross-cultural universals?
  • Aspects of pitch
  • The distinction between relative and absolute
  • Melody recognition
  • Scale structure
  • Musical intervals
  • Lullabies

Evidence for innate mechanisms in music
  • Comparative evidence
  • Why study animals?
  • See if trait is unique to humans
  • Homology vs. Homoplasy
  • Homology A trait thats inherited from a common
  • Homoplasy A trait with distinct lineages,
    lacking a common ancestor
  • Powerful tool for evolutionary arguments
  • Can control exposure
  • Animals do not naturally produce music, thus any
    perceptual effects cannot be part of adaptation
    for music
  • Nature of the evidence?
  • Production of musical passages by animals
  • Birds, gibbons and whale songs
  • Perception of musical structure in animals
  • Pitch perception, consonance and dissonance,
    musical styles
  • Concerns with overstating evidence

Evidence for innate mechanisms in music
  • Neural evidence
  • Neuropsychology and imagining techniques
  • Evidence for distinct neural structures related
    to musical processing distinct mechanisms for
  • Are these brain structures innate, or do they
    come about through experience?

  • Suggestive evidence that structure of music
    constrained by innate features of brain
  • Work on pitch
  • Question of whether music is an adaptation or
    byproduct of auditory process still remains
  • Octaves vs. musical intervals