Two psychologists, Gary Marcus and Geoffrey Miller discuss the origin of music holding opposing views. One argues that there is no musical genes, that music is a cultural product as many others. Another argues that music is a product of evolution in order to find breeding pair.
Music is in the genes
«Since neither the best nor the capacity of producing musical notes are less useful for the man in your daily habits, we must clarify them among the most mysterious powers which is provided»
Music as culture
Music is a universal cultural product. The oldest musical instruments are more than 35,000 years. Children learn it without difficulty. Although different music sound very different, actually contain many common elements. All cultures sing, play drums and dance and there are many identical concepts as rhythm, dance, musical tone, scales, repetition of structures and changes in timbre to express emotions.
Is it so widespread as to say that music is universal?
What if it’s universal, it’s in our genes?
Actually, 35,000 years is a breeze in human evolutionary history. Although it is over 1,000 generations, only accounted for 0.1% of the time that mammals have on earth. Everyone learns to speak, but not everyone learns to sing. Some are not able to reproduce the most common songs and very few learn instruments. Music is very common, but not as universal as language.
We were born to hear language and musical sounds sound similar to language. Babies prefer the language and pay more attention to the music. The musicians are great engineers who build things that people want, with brains that evolved before the technology existed. There are large areas of the brain that are activated by the music, but they are dedicated to it. The music, reading and video games used regions already had other functions.
Elsewhere, Darwin said: «There is little doubt that the passionate orator, bard or musician, when with his varied tones and cadences excites the strongest emotions of their listeners, using the same mechanisms by which their half-human ancestors raised in the other ardent passions during courtship and rivalry «.
The reproductive benefits are clear. Musicians attract more sexual partners than non-musicians. Also seen in other species: songs of insects, frogs, birds, whales and gibbons. Although generally only males sing, in the human species the sexes sing. Both are demanding to find a lasting relationship that is giving more children. Both use art, jokes, music or moral virtues. In some other species, few, both sexes sing like some birds and gibbons.
Since we are the only great apes with aptitudes for rhythm and melody, is likely to be a recent acquisition and no brain areas dedicated to music. Musical areas in humans overlap with other skills. As involving many regions means that someone gifted in music has a brain generally well structured and well worth it for a sexual partner. Furthermore, the content of songs about love in general versa, suggesting that something is sexual attraction and romance one of its bases, something not seen much in other cultural creations.
But musical genes have been found?
There is much research on genes and music. As a general ability, you can not find a specific gene that explains the music but thousands of genes. Those who have found, are also associated with other non-musical human abilities.
There may be two types of genes:
–A related-musical talent. Since there are over half a million DNA base relate to general intelligence, a large number must be related to the musical talent.
-The genes related to the human ability not present in other species must be very few. If we find that there are in man and the Neanderthal, we know that the musical genes have appeared in the last 200,000 years, when our species diverged.
The passionate debate is far from over and shows a surprising fact: music is everywhere in our world but has barely been studied biologically.
Clotilde Sarrió – Gestalt Therapy Valencia