Music and cognitive evolution

Ian Cross

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Music and cognitive evolution

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This article suggests that several different factors converged to suggest that evolutionary thinking about music was likely to be unfruitful. Over much of the twentieth century, consideration of origins in the study of music moved away from any exploration of music's relationship to biology to re-focus on the historical relationships between contemporary Western musical theory and practice, and Western musical history, or on music's relationships with abstract domains such as mathematics. For both strands of thought, evolution was simply irrelevant to their concerns which were viewed as primarily musicological, focused on the explication of the historical and ontological roots of Western music. Any evolutionary approach to understanding music requires at least an operational definition of what might constitute ‘music’. Music involves patterned action in time, as does dance. Music appears communicative, complex, generative, and representational, as does language. The concept of music is amalgamated with that of dance in many — perhaps the majority of — cultures.

Keywords: music; evolution; biology; Western music; dance; cultures

Article.  13469 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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