A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

The Origins of Music

Br2001_12FSWallin, Nils L., Bjørn Merker & Steven Brown (Eds.)(2000) The Origins of Music. London, England/Cambridge, Massachusetts: A Bradford Book/The MIT Press.

Reviewed by Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair.

Abstract

Lately NJMT has seen a surge of biological approaches to music, music therapy and related topics. Last year also brought the publication of a major collection of multidisciplinary essays collected under the umbrella called “biomusicology”. This text attempts to review the book, tie it to the NJMT articles, and comment on the recent biologising of musicology. This is seen as a part of a movement within many formerly exclusively social “sciences” or humanities, in which both evolutionary psychology and behavioural genetics fit. Many feelings of incompatibility and natural science imperialism may be evoked, though the message would seem to be that there is a greater return if one manages to combine the methods of investigation and experience from different approaches to our universe.

Prelude

This is a review of “Origins of Music”, a collection of 27 essays, articles and sketches edited by Nils L. Wallin, Björn Merker and Steven Brown (2000, MIT Press) – in the remainder referred to as “Origins”. Just as Darwin’s (1859) “Origin”, which this volume certainly pays homage to, did not answer the question of the “origin” of life, “Origins” does not answer the question of the “Origins” of music. Obviously it is a tall measure for the founding text of any discipline to provide conclusive answers. Surely the aim for any such text is to synthesise a foundation and point in the most likely fruitful direction a new study might seek to find the answers. As “Origin” did, this is what “Origins” does.

This is also a consideration of some of the texts presented within last year’s volume of NJMT which focused on biological and evolutionary approaches to music and music therapy. In the end this is a comment on the biologising of music, and psychology in general, and the possibilities to be found in the synergy of combining the approaches of natural science and the humanities.

This is finally a view from what is called Evolutionary Psychology – which in this specific case means that the behaviour generating mind is viewed as the result of an evolved, functional, computational, modular organ. It also means that this is a disclosure – as the discourse at times may be more or less partisan. From this point of view some analyses will be more valid than others. even when one does not agree with the conclusions, the ground rules will be acceptable.

And now, introducing biomusicology.

Let me state the following, straight off: The opening chapter of “Origins” ought to be included in the general curriculum of any music study. No less. The only reason not to do so would have to be prejudice and fear of anything that smacks of biology. One may only hope that this prejudice may be alleviated in time. Another way to honour the opening chapter may be to claim the following: If you do not read the entirety of this tome, at least read the first chapter!

The book that follows is a mosaic of different theoretical positions, different academic disciplines, different research methods, and several different species are studied. And yet the opening chapter manages to distil some general themes. It would of course be quite a surprise, if biomusicology, at such an early date, was able to present a theoretically united research programme. This makes this guide of an introduction all the more important, as it clarifies the problems and suggests what general themes or discussions one may perceive at this early stage. Every good collection attempts this, not every collection succeeds. I believe I would have been more confused by the variation that met me in the following chapters without the light shed by the editors.

The book continues to present different perspectives to the question of music and biology – and if one has not got multiple degrees in neurology, zoology, evolutionary biology, psychology, musicology, archaeology, palaeontology, ethnomusicology, anthropology, computer simulations, acoustic analysis, music therapy etc. one is going to be challenged more than a few times to be able to follow all the arguments of all chapters. I have to admit to being quite befuddled at several occasions. Miller (chapter 19) was the most familiar chapter for an evolutionary psychologist, Dissanayake (chapter 21) is probably the most readily available text for music therapists, and comparative biologists/psychologists will find a lot of familiar ground – although this might not be home turf for most music therapists.

The quality and style of the chapters seems to be variable, and most attempts at even getting close to answering the question of music’s origins ends in speculation. The field is wrought with most of the problems that psychology and anthropology struggle with when attempting to argue for evolutionary perspectives (such as unease in accepting mainstream biology as science, rather than value-laden metaphor that may be played around with at the fancy of the self-ordained virtuoso). I am somewhat surprised that MIT Press has decided to jumpstart this new and disorderly discipline – although this is the most natural science approach to music I have ever come across. I found a few typographical mistakes in most chapters, and of course since publication the human genome has been counted – and the number is closer to 30.000 not 100.000. But when these small and maybe unavoidable faults have been noted – the book is a triumph of interdisciplinary and convergent academia, although, and alas, the only real attempt at synthesis is the opening chapter.

“Origins” is divided into 6 parts. Part I is the “Introduction to Evolutionary Musicology” – do not miss it, or you will get lost. Part II focuses on comparative studies of acoustic signalling in other species – what I would call a comparative psychology of music. Part III takes the step toward human evolution and human music, via language. Language is a specific human capacity, and the evolutionary study of language might inform other studies of specific human capacities. I am less convinced that tying language structurally to everything specifically human, like “music” is meaningful. Part IV is where one is promised insights into the origins, at best one gets speculations. My personal opinion is that the most important essay in this part (and apart from the introduction, the most important essay of the book), is the chapter by Miller on sexual selection. I make this claim although I disagree with the conclusion and found the lack of rigour in definitions and too large emphasis on argumentation rather than evidence annoying. What makes this important is that it advocates an approach founded on mainstream evolutionary theory and empirical studies of human musical ability. Part V focuses on universals in music – and this is an important step on the way to a rigorous research programme. One needs to define what phenomenon one is studying. As the origins of music will be found in the origins of the universal human mental adaptations, exaptations and spandrels1 that allow us to perform the whole array of musical behaviour. Defining the different phenomena of interest as universals is where one needs to start. The last part, Part VI, is a small but feisty dinner speech – meant to build down barriers between natural science and art, and inspire much needed research within a most exciting field. This essay cannot possibly achieve to pay proper attention to every theory, field, position, tradition and innovation held within the pages of “Origins”, it will therefore attempt to address the major topics of the different parts from this specific author’s restricted perspective. Keep in mind, though, that this is not a book of restricted perspectives, quite the contrary.

For those who do not read more than the first pages, my conclusion is: If you wonder why and how we are able to perform music behaviour, buy the book. But beware: It does not answer the question, and the attempts at providing preliminary speculations are rather complex – but also very intriguing. Remember, Darwin’s “Origin” did not explain how life arose, only how it diversified – though it did spark a revolution in biology, of which the last milestone is the mapping of the human genome. “Origins” is the first step into an evolutionary or biological musicology, and is just as much a call for further research as it is the founding text of a new exciting discipline.

Humans and All of the Other Animals

In any comparative study, that is: any study that attempts to discover something about one species by studying an other, one runs into certain problems. I have partaken in comparative studies, and in general I would claim that comparative studies have been of utmost importance within psychology. I am therefore not adverse to the study of other animals in order to shed light on humans. The following is a more specific critique of the approach of Part II of “Origins”. It consists of ca. 125 pages (almost exactly a quarter of the book) on the sounds, signals, meanings, learning and variations of different birds and mammals. What it has to do with music might not be as obvious.

Simon Baron-Cohen (1997) pointed out that the main point of comparative studies of other animals is not to get to know these animals, but to discover the secrets of humans – and this is worth noting. Psychology has a very good idea about rats – just as Marler (chapter 3) and his colleagues know very, very much about birds. And there is probably good reason to believe that some of this knowledge may inform investigators of humans – but if anthropocentrism might mean just what it states, studies of the specifically human must be performed eventually.

Two very important concepts in evolutionary informed comparative studies are those of “homology” and “analogy”. A “homology” is a biological trait that performs similar biological function, and shares the same genetic heritage; my legs and the hind legs of a dog, my hand and the hand of an ape, my eyes and the eyes of all mammals – but not of all animals. “Eyes” have arisen several times in evolution, in different animals. Thus my eyes and the eyes of an octopus are analogous, not homologous. They perform relatively similar functions for me and the octopus, but they do not share genetic heritage. Another example is the shape of dolphins (mammals), fish and Ophtalmosaurus (a fish-shaped ocean dwelling dinosaur). The shape is an excellent one for aquatic movement, but has arisen independently in these different species.

Singing in birds is most likely not a homology to human song. The chirping of baby birds probably has nothing genetically in common with mother-infant protolanguage. In this one may agree with Jerison (chapter 12). Also – to be an analogy chirping needs to have the same function as protolanguage. Yet again this is probably not likely. That would mean that both were adaptations solving the same ultimate purpose (that is: increase reproductive likelihood in similar ways). Rather animal “singing” may be more a metaphor of human song: it is like human song in some ways (and these will inform us of human song, too) but is not really human song (which is why I utter these words of caution).

Why the book ends up being dominated by comparative studies is therefore somewhat puzzling. I end up believing that the reason is this: These researchers have actually gone to work and mapped the behaviour of these animals in a quantative, behavioural and orderly fashion – the result being that we have more data of this kind on birds than we have on humans. As Miller (chapter 19) points out:

“In terms of quantitative data relevant to sexual selection hypotheses, we know more about the calls of the small, drab, neotropical Tungara frog [.] than we do about human music.”

Obviously the research ought to be done on the human animal too. And as such Part II ought to inspire musicologists to go to work.

Lingocentrism

When moving from what we share with the animals to the uniquely human, one has to pass through language.

Now, music and language, in my view, probably share mental modules. They are both probably originally voice signal systems, that later also evolved communication qualities. Although we might know what language is, music is not defined. Therefore I could define music as pure semantic communication or signalling, or as totally void of semantic signalling what so ever. And this is the greatest problem of “Origins” – the lack of agreement of what one is searching the “origins” of. (Still today “species” is not an obvious concept, for all purposes, and in all biological camps, so Darwin had such trouble with “Origin”, too).

Even if there should be a link between music and language there is reason to suggest that the selection pressures behind language evolution have much in common with music evolution. Are “music” and “language” homologies – or are some language modules a part of the array of modules that make up the “musical” mind?

The major reward of considering language and evolution – and here inviting MIT linguist Steven Pinker (see Pinker, 1994) would have been expected – is to learn how a specific and unique human capacity may have evolved, and how such a capacity may be studied (Bickerton, Chapter 10). This is at least as important as the comparative study.

I still follow Pinker’s (1997) conclusion: Language is probably an adaptation, music is probably not. Music as it remains undefined in “Origins” would at least have to be several phenomena, I would expect to find that in most cases “music” is the result of interactions between other adaptations.

Part III is a very interesting, but jumbled collection of essays. It tells us something about music and language, something about neural evolution, and a beautiful tale of how the thighbone of a young cave bear may be connected to our musical heritage. These are the essays that did not find a home in Part IV, but they might as well have – the reason for making the division is not clear.

Part IV is the chapter that supposedly attempts to answer the questions. At best we get speculations. But of course all science starts with mere speculations – and then progresses through an interaction of definitions, empirical data and theory building, or at least that would be the ideal. The message is clear: There is a lot of work to be done!

Origins of Music

How has music come to be? This is a very complex question. It is so complex that one would rather not approach it, or that seems to be the claim in “Origins” – for the last half of last century this question was not considered. Recently it seems to be a favourite topic – and obviously musicologists ought to contribute to this research. By not considering the evolutionary or biological aspects of human nature, including musicality, one will probably not be able to answer such a question.

Music did not pop up due to large brains becoming larger, as paleontologist and essayist Stephen Jay Gould (1991) claims – the brains becoming larger to better cool the hot blood of savannah dwelling folks. And if it did, what luck! Maybe that is all that some dualistic theoreticians would want humanity to be – luck. Of course that would go for all structural evolution, too – fish would be lucky to have gills, hens lucky to lay eggs, and “Darwinism” would be a waste of academic time. In that case the “origins” of music would be impossible to discover, and would not have present day importance what so ever.

If “music” in any way had an effect on the lives of humans, in such a way as to increase the likelihood of reproduction (even if this was via increased survival) then humans would have been “bred for” “music”. And that is when evolutionary theory becomes interesting. In order to avoid becomming a naive “pan-adaptationist” though, one has to consider the following: The mental mechanisms that evolved to increase reproductive success in our ancestors also made “music” possible. In this scenario “music” is not an adaptation, only a spandrel – a side-effect of adaptations. Still evolutionary theory is interesting, and this actually does not belittle music – the phenomenon exists today as it does no matter how it arose, just as we are human even if our genome contains genes from bacteria and monkeys! In this case it is the evolution of these other structures we need to track.

“Origins” has to be a book of evolution and music. That is the only way one may investigate “origins” – at least after the lucky event (no matter if this is the chance designing of a “music” module or a “language” module or an “acoustic ecology scanner” module) became a significant feedback process. The reason is, like it or not, that the ability to perform music behaviour has to be based upon a biological human nature that allows music behaviour to be performed. If one does not like this I suggest that one attempts to discover why one harbours such a dislike – and attempts to change this prejudice. The “origins” of music must be sought in the biological human musical nature. And this human nature is only properly investigated through the convergence of the biology of music and the art itself.

Universal Human Nature

Evolutionary psychology has made a point of studying universal human nature. As such there is a difference between certain forms of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, as the former had a more individual rather than species focus. The universal species-typical level of analysis is also the correct level of analysis for the study of species-typical adaptations. And it is an analysis of whether musicality is a human adaptation or not that is the correct place to start. Note: also in the case where one might hypothesise that music is not an adaptation, one has to begin by focusing on whether it actually is – there is no other testable hypothesis.

This is, to add a politically correct point, also the reason why race is not considered interesting within evolutionary psychology. And this is also one conclusion of the human genome project; as Darwin predicted in “Origin” we all share the same origin and humans share the same genes to such a degree that major differences are found between two specific individuals not groups. There seems to be a universal human set of adaptations.

“Origins” uses a non-absolute criterion for universal, and that seems correct. One would not expect that all human potentials would be put to use in every possible culture, as humans survive on tropical islands, in the arctic, in deserts, and in jungles. Some dive, some never dive; some hunt, some never hunt; some are polygamous, others celibate. The important issue is that “music” through such an analysis becomes a phenomenon probably guided by several adaptations. This probably is true of many complex behaviours that have a high level of interaction with culture in their expression.

It also allows for a modular mind, a corner stone of evolutionary psychology, and a modular definition of “music” behaviour.

The Future of Biomusicology

“Origins” is a multidisciplinary, panscientific project. The different texts are mostly clearly written, but the spread of theory and science and method ends up leaving me quite bedazzled, rather confused, and at the same time inspired. Consider the style of writing and level of detail in the archeological piece by Kunej and Turk (chapter 15) on what may (or may not – though the wonder of the thing hardly allows for such considerations!) be a flute produced from the femur of a young cave bear. Consider the neurological data, the sound frequency data, the different species of animals considered, the different theoretical positions. The bear is extinct, and yet there it is – a part of music as we know it – as is every detail of the book. There is more of this all through the pages of “Origins”. And there probably is more – out there.

The future of “biomusicology” is therefore interesting. It is the first major start at a historical investigation of music, after the search for “origins” within humanities was called off at the start of the century. It is a start at looking back. At the same time there are some “here and now” problems that need to be addressed:

What is “music”?

Some claim one cannot answer this question, some claim we do not need to, some include any behaviour connected to music as we know it (sex, drugs, rock & roll, dance, song, and rythm), yet others attempt at providing a partial answer – in some cases based upon “universals”. I would suggest taking the latter perspective, and then reducing some. One needs to view music in parts to get anywhere. One part might be early mother(parent?)-infant communication. One part might be song, another dance etc. Also, I would suggest adding context, age, gender, etc. to the matrix. There is all reason to believe that the human universals involved in the greater phenomenon “music” are modular. That is why adding a certain number of universals from definition to definition might work. Believing that every activity associated with “music” is music is probably impossible to operationalise and will probably present too complex an analysis, as information processing in several modules will be involved. Also, the inflation of possible arguments will be near infinite without the quality of the science improving even closely. (If I should find that attracting females is “adaptive” for young male jazz-musicians, can I conclude that jazz is an adaptation – or that music is an adaptation? No, I cannot. There is much work left to be done.).


Is music an adaptation or not?

To provide an answer one will need to answer the questions of what are the functions or effects of different operationalised definitions of music, for what ages, for what social contexts, and for what genders. By definition function means that it enhances reproduction in some way – as does survival (Williams, 1966). The only reason survival is interesting, is if it increases the chance of reproduction of ones genes in as many generations as are mathematically relevant (due to sexual reproduction, great-great-great-grandchildren are not very similar to oneself). Thus survival success is pointless without reproductive success, so old animals eventually die. To answer the function-question will be to point out how the trait in question increased reproductive success (in our evolutionary past!). Also it answers what proximate problems (here and now, in the individuals development) the adaptation solved.

If music is not an adaptation we have several possibilities: it may be a chance result of several adaptations; it may be an effect of an adaptation, that the adaptation was not designed for (an exaptation); it may be a result of pure chance with no evolutionary history. The latter is probably the least likely, as music is pretty co-ordinated, systematic behaviour.

If music is not an adaptation one might find that developmental patterns are difficult to discern, that important maturing stimuli seems arbitrary from a musical perspective, and that the systematic appearance of music in all of its forms is a result of information processing in several other adaptations (and possible exaptations or even spandrels). And in the this case, these need to be described and understood.

The editors of “Origins” make several statements about music being a better area of evolutionary study than language. The important thing to note there is the following: this is probably only true if “music” is an adaptation, and this we do not know. There has been more work on language as adaptation (Pinker, 1994), and depression as adaptation (Nesse, 2000) – but still we do not know if e.g. depression is an adaptation (Nesse, personal communication, March 2001), and the same holds for “music”.

To conclude: Considering music an adaptation is no more a reduction or debasement of music than to consider music a part of universal human nature. Also, even though I do not believe music is an adaptation, that would have to be the hypothesis I would have to test were I to investigate biological human musical nature. All human nature is biological – without existence there is no essence; without biology there is no existence.

Where Will This End?

The closing chapter of “Origins” is a cheerleader’s chant: “Go Biomusicians! Go!” It is a playful, inspirational incitement to take biomusicology serious. As such it shows that this book is just as much an attempt at getting discussion and research started, as it is an attempt at providing scientific answers to the major questions of “the origins of music”.

And by the look of things, at least within the pages of this journal, there is great interest in evolutionary and biological approaches to musicology and music therapy. Last year saw a surge of independent articles, which might have come as somewhat of a surprise to its readers. My impression of these articles is that they share many features of the chapters of “Origins” – including the almost total lack of overlapping approach. I would like to tie the following five articles from last years volume of NJMT to the hopes of the last chapter of “Origins”:

Kennair (2000) attempted to illustrate how applying an evolutionary approach to music might clarify certain topics within both music development and clinical psychology, more specifically psychodynamic therapy. This text shares a lot of references and perspectives with Miller (chapter 19) – but while Miller claims that music is an adaptation, Kennair’s claim is that instrumental music is best viewed as an exaptation or even spandrel, and also as a result of several other adaptations interacting. Kennair’s view of song is inspired by thinking comparable to Dissanayake (chapter 19) and the work of Trevarthen, among others. But song is not seen as the same phenomenon as instrumental music.

Grinde (2000) makes a similar claim: “music” consists of several different innate abilities, and he agrees with Miller that sexual selection may have had an influence. The main point still seems to be that music was adaptive. Also music ability in itself is not what is adaptive, but the link to language – making language learning possible. This is achieved be eliciting pleasurable states in our brain. This makes a rather complicated argument, where music is linked to both curiosity, language and special hedonistic brainstates. The most interesting point is that language gets centre stage, which is not the case in “Origins”, and that the concept of “brain rewards” is used to explain why humans do not as a species engage in maladaptive behaviour, despite our free will. This seems to be sort of circular.

Merker (2000) comments on Grinde (2000). Merker is one of the editors of “Origins”. He is also a contributor. The editors of “Origins” make several claims that music is a better phenomenon to study than language in order to understand human evolution, thus it is not surprising that Merker finds Grinde’s focus on language problematic. Most of Merker’s criticism seems fair, I too find Grinde’s theory confusing. Most noteworthy is Merker’s pleasure that evolutionary accounts of music, even when he does not agree with the theory, are being put forward: The work heralded by “Origins” is being done.

Christensen (2000) also comments on Grinde (2000). In a short piece he presents his own theory of listening, and ties this to the work of Daniel Stern (see Kennair, 2000, for comments on this approach). His main point is that music precedes language. Yet again, what “music” is is not clear – and though Christensen notes this problem in Grinde’s article he does not seem to note it in his own. Christensen accepts the evolutionary perspective, but a major problem is that he seems to confuse ontogenetic development (“music” precedes “language” in the infant) with phylogenetic development.

Trevarthen & Malloch (2000) suggest the most controversial solution – there are supposedly other ways music may have evolved – as they brush of mainstream evolutionary biology as relevant to understanding the origins of music. This is also mirrored within many contributions of “Origins”. Miller (chapter 19, p. 334) puts it this way:

“[C]omplex adaptations can evolve only through natural selection or sexual selection [.] That’s it. There are no other options, and any musicologist who is lucky enough to discover some other way of explaining adaptive complexity in nature can look forward to a Nobel prize in biology.”

It could have been said differently, it could hardly be said clearer. And if this is a challenge, then the prize is greater than Nobel’s. The closest contribution in “Origins” to Trevarthen and Malloch is probably Dissanayake (chapter 21). What these authors have to explain, though, is how they hold the secrets to how biological phenomena (which they concede that they are discussing) develop, apart from those of biology proper.

All in all the conclusion is that human universals are involved. Universal human development and music are connected in some way. Music perception is connected to universals of human cognition and emotion. And evolutionary theory is somehow relevant for further investigation into music behaviours. These NJMT articles could thus easily have become a part of “Origins” – and may be viewed as biomusicological texts. In the articles – just as within the pages of “Origins” – there is no obvious common denominator apart from the fact that one seems to advocate a biological and even evolutionary approach to music. This is all very Kuhnian, and thus might be expected by Kuhnians.

I would like to think that this promising beginning will bring us new knowledge in years to come. I am pretty sure that a more positive attitude toward mainstream evolutionary theory will help, although I am familiar with the resistance toward such. The many utterances within the pages of “Origins” that the author is better able to understand the processes involved in evolution than the bona fide specialists within the field ought to worry any unbiased reader. Note Miller’s comment above! My claim is that biomusicology could do a lot worse than adopting the rigorous research programme of Leda Cosmides and John Tooby’s evolutionary psychology (Cosmides & Tooby, 1997, in press; Tooby & Cosmides, 1992, 1995; Kennair, 1998, 2001).

With a more daring, decisive and operationalised definition of the concepts of music, a clearer understanding of evolutionary theory and more quantitative data on universals of music, biomusicology will become a very interesting mapping of the evolution of the human mind. Thus biomusicology may inform and inspire other areas of investigation into the human psychology – human nature. In that case this conglomerate of various disciplines and cacophony of theoretical perspectives may indeed become a classic. Not only within (bio)musicology.

Postlude

Parallel to writing this text, I have been preparing a presentation for the Norwegian Psychiatric Association on the evolution of depression. This has provided me with the possibility to experience an interesting view of two very different fields being subject to the same theory in an attempt to improve each field’s understanding: modern, mainly biologically oriented, psychiatry, in the throes of loosing its religion or theoretical foundation (psychoanalysis), and musicology and music therapy, being led into the realm of natural science and evolutionary theory.

What happens in these two different cases? In both cases I would advise that one included both theoretical as well as empirical perspectives, and the choice of theory when one is investigating human nature from different positions is pretty obvious: the only theory that actually may predict anything about human nature is evolutionary theory. All other sub-theories would have to refer to and be disciplined by evolutionary theory.

In the case of psychiatry there seems to have developed a need to distance the field from theory, and approach a somewhat dustbowl empiricist position. Psychiatric science may therefore end up a mere descriptive “sub-science”, unable to assist practitioners with knowledge to base generalisations and improvisations upon.

Musicologists, and many investigators within social “sciences” and the humanities, on the other hand are not in general comfortable with evolutionary perspectives or natural science in general. The anxiety of reductionism and genetic determinism is broadly evident. Case studies and limited empirical testing end up crippling the potential validity of theoretical generalisations.

Obviously, my position is that both fields will have more to gain from approaching the world simultaneously with theory and empirical investigation. The ideal is a situation where data disciplines theory, and theory generates data. This is in many ways a naïve understanding of philosophy of science – but that is beside the point. When one approach to the world discards theory, and the other discards the empirical methods of investigation, such simplistic theory of science is more than valid. With dustbowl empiricism all one may achieve is a statistical chance of predicting specific cases, and there is no way to perform improvised implementations based on general principles in non-studied cases (which individuals are, if one strips them of all general features – but such features are Theory!). On the other hand, the method of describing the experience of the universe of one individual or the specific details of the single case is a highly complex empirical study, but with an N (number of subjects) = 1, thus few valid generalisations about all other cases can be made (and such a valid generalisation would be the basic structure of Theory).

Science would not have got anywhere without reductionism (Tiger, 1999), and I agree – legal reductionism is necessary. Grappling with holism is a sure way not to understand the pieces of the puzzle – the “holistier than thou” (Dawkins, 1982, p. 113) attitude being politically correct, while blindfolding every attempt at seeing solutions. On the other hand, dustbowl empiricism is a dead end, so all legal reductionism must be coupled to valid theory building. I believe the area of biomusicology is an interesting epistemological experiment – that might build down the unease in both (wrongfully perceived?) opposing “cultures”.

Let this end with the words of Brown, Merker and Wallin (Chapter 1, p. 21):

“It is our hope that this situation will change in coming years, and that the next generation of students will realize the great awards that await them in making the extra effort to develop training in both the arts and the experimental sciences such as biology.”

Amen? I surely do hope so.

References

Baron-Cohen, S. (1997b). Preface: Why evolutionary psychopathology? In S. Baron-Cohen (Ed.). The maladapted mind: Classic readings in evolutionary psychopathology (pp. ix-xiii). Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Christensen, E. (2000). Music precedes language: Comment on Grinde’s article. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9 (2), 32-35.

Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (1997). Dissecting the computational architecture of social inference mechanisms. In G. R. Bock & G. Cardew (Eds.), Characterizing human psychological adaptations: Ciba Foundation symposium, 208 (pp. 132-161). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (in press). Evolutionary Psychology. London: Weidenfeld.

Darwin, C. (1859/1996). The origin of species. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Dawkins, R. (1982). The extended phenotype. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Gould, S. J. (1991). Exaptation: A crucial tool for an evolutionary psychology. Journal of Social Issues, 47 (3), 43-65.

Grinde, B. (2000). A biological perspective on musical appreciation. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9 (2), 18-27.

Kennair, L. E. O. (1998). Evolutionary psychology: an emerging integrative meta-theory for psychological science and practice. Thesis/Hovedoppgave. Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen.

Kennair, L. E. O. (2000). Developing minds for pathology and musicality. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9 (1), 26-37.

Kennair, L. E. O. (2001). Evolusjonspsykologi: En integrerende metateori for psykologisk vitenskap. Tidsskrift for Norsk Psykologforening, 38, 210-217.

Merker, B. (2000). A new theory of music origins: The language auxiliary hypothesis. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9 (2), 28-31.

Nesse, R. M. (2000). Is depression an adaptation? Archives of General Psychiatry, 57, 14-20.

Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct: The new science of language and mind. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

Pinker, S. (1997). How the mind works. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

Tiger, L. (1999). Hope springs internal. Social Research, 66.

Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992). The psychological foundations of culture. In Barkow, J. H., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 19-136). New York: Oxford University Press.

Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1995). Mapping the evolved functional organization of mind and brain. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences (pp. 1185-1197). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Trevarthen, C., & Malloch, S. N. (2000). The dance of wellbeing: Defining the musical therapeutic effect. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9 (2), 3-17.

Williams, G. C. (1966). Adaptation and Natural Selection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Comments are closed.