Thursday, December 03, 2015

The evolution of music from emotional signals

I want to pass on the slightly edited abstract of a recent article on the evolutionary origins of music, "Music evolution and neuroscience," in Progress in Brain Research, written by my Univ. of Wisconsin colleague Charles Snowdon.
There have been many attempts to discuss the evolutionary origins of music. We review theories of music origins and take the perspective that music is originally derived from emotional signals in both humans and animals. An evolutionary approach has two components: First, is music adaptive? How does it improve reproductive success? Second, what, if any, are the phylogenetic origins of music? Can we find evidence of music in other species? We show that music has adaptive value through emotional contagion, social cohesion, and improved well-being. We trace the roots of music through the emotional signals of other species suggesting that the emotional aspects of music have a long evolutionary history. We show how music and speech are closely interlinked with the musical aspects of speech conveying emotional information. We describe acoustic structures that communicate emotion in music and present evidence that these emotional features are widespread among humans and also function to induce emotions in animals. Similar acoustic structures are present in the emotional signals of nonhuman animals. We conclude with a discussion of music designed specifically to induce emotional states in animals, both cotton top tamarin monkeys and domestic cats.

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