The evolutionary origins of music

Wurz, Sarah (2009-03)

Thesis (MMus (Music))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


The evolutionary origins of music, defined as “an intentional action in which complex, learned vocalizations (and/or instrumentally produced sound) are combined with the movement of the body in synchrony to a beat” is investigated through an appraisal of the musilanguage theory and relevant literature. The biological adaptations allowing the production and perception of music are identified and their evolutionary histories investigated. The critical adaptations that made rhythmical body movement possible evolved around 1.6 million years ago. These include habitual bipedalism and changes in the vestibular system. There is almost no fossil evidence to inform on the timing and nature of the complex, learned vocalization. However, that the thoracic vertebrate canal had modern proportions by 600 000 years ago indicates that archaic humans were able to achieve the respiratory control necessary to sing. The size of this canal is a proxy for the number of nerve cells that control respiration via the intercostal and abdominal muscles. Musicality is essential to the human mind. Infants are born with rudimentary musical skills with regard to melody, temporal sequences and vocal and bodily imitation. These capabilities are central to the newborns’ innate ability to elicit care by synchronizing their vocal and bodily actions with that of the caregivers. Musical rhythm is further used to entrain bodily and neural oscillations and this permit the creation of trust and social bonding. It is concluded that protomusic developed between 1.6 million and 600 000 years ago. Protomusic consisted of entrained rhythmical whole body movements initially combined with grunt-like vocalizations. The evidence investigated cannot be used to infer the origins of modern music. KEYWORDS: Music, Evolution, Synchronisation, Melody, Dance, Bipedality, Vestibular system, Thoracic vertebrate canal, Infant-directed communication, Neural entrainment

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL:
This item appears in the following collections: