The Origins of Music ( OoM ) Comparative evaluation of competing theories

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The Origins of Music ( OoM ) Comparative evaluation of competing theories. Richard Parncutt University of Graz, Austria International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC), Seattle USA, 23-27 August 2010. SysMus Graz. Contents of talk. What is a “good” theory?
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The Origins of Music (OoM) Comparative evaluation of competing theories Richard Parncutt University of Graz, Austria International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC), Seattle USA, 23-27 August 2010 SysMus Graz Contents of talk
  • What is a “good” theory?
  • What is “music”?
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • Selected OoM- theories
  • Systematic evaluations
  • Motherese
  • A “good” theory is...
  • simple parsimonious, falsifiable
  • general accounts for range of phenomena
  • concrete clearlydefinedterms, processes
  • logical clear argument
  • empirical observation-based, ecological
  • seminal inspires new approaches Ockham Kuhn Popper Gibson
  • A good theory of a complex phenomenon...
  • focuses on striking, universal aspects (“the wood”)
  • neglects specific detail (“the trees”) (δ  0)  focus on music’s main…
  • functions
  • emotions
  • structures Bisham (2009): music’s “design features” (Is music a unitary phenomenon or a Western construct?)
  • 1. Social functions of music Music is an... “interpersonal framework for synchronous and group affective interaction” (Bisham, 2009) Participants... “share convergent intersubjectiveendstates” Music...
  • promotes conformity, integration, altruism
  • enables coordinated action and change
  • 2. Music and emotion Juslin & Sloboda...
  • “What is great about great music? It moves us emotionally! ...awe-filled... sublime... biologically rooted social-emotional feelings” (Panksepp, 2009)
  • pleasure underlies musical motivation (Schubert, 2009; Vusst & Kringelbach, 2009)
  • spirituality(Gabrielsson & Lindström Wik, 2003) “dissociation from earthly reality”(Schubert, 2009) Music can evoke...
  • all emotions
  • strong emotions
  • changed states
  • 3. Music-structural universals
  • Melody: like speech in... pitch range, interval sizes, tone and phrase durations
  • Rhythm: tempo range like footsteps & heartbeats; movement character (multimodality); beat induction, entrainment (Honing, Patel, Merker)
  • Form: repetition, call-response, motivic development
  • A definition of music
  • an acoustic signal
  • evokes recognizable patterns
  • implies physical movement
  • meaningful
  • intentional
  • accepted by a cultural group
  • not lexical (not “language”)
  • A good theory should explain all this! Constructing OoM theories:Pitfalls to avoid
  • Arbitrary focus
  • Western
  • evolutionary
  • Researcher’s background
  • experience
  • expertise
  • Pitfall 1: Western classical focus Should we explain...
  • major-minor tonality?
  • “Great Composers”? Or rather...
  • hunter-gatherer rituals?
  • shamanic ceremonies?
  • garage bands?
  • iPod experiences?
  • Pitfall 2: Evolutionary focus
  • Not necessarily evolutionary! “there has been curious lack of attention to the possibility that musical origins can be explained without the need to invoke music-specific genes” (Livingstone & Thompson, 2009, p. 84)
  • Function ≠ adaptation group function group survival?
  • “Just so stories” in evol.psychol. with little behavioral, genetic, neuro support (Huron, Panksepp)
  • Pitfall 3: Experience bias
  • Climate change
  • If I don’t experience it, it’s a lie
  • Personal experience of music
  • If I perform for sex, everyone does
  • If I am gifted, giftedness exists
  • Pitfall 4: Expertise bias Emphasize aspects of problem that correspond to one’s own expertise e.g. I do psychoacoustics
  • auditory scene analysis is central
  • ASA is pleasurable
  • ASA is origin of music
  • Musical origins or prerequisites? Prerequisites include:
  • physiology
  • vocal tract, fast neural processing... (e.g. Fitsch, Nishimura, Lieberman)
  • psychology
  • reflective language, theory of mind... (e.g. Livingstone & Thompson, 2009)
  • latent abilities
  • ability to synchronize to a beat (e.g. parrot “Snowball” – Patel) Anorigin is a behavior similar to music  mechanisms, motivations, structures
  • Six theories of originsbehaviors that are similar to music
  • Animal behaviors
  • Pleasure seeking
  • Mate attraction
  • Training
  • Socializing
  • Motherese
  • Grades for OoMtheories Systematic evaluation of performance on various tasks  final grade Weighting of tasks and final evaluation are subjective 1. Non-human animalbehaviors Examples:
  • singing (birds, whales, gibbons)
  • territorial marking (wolves...)
  • synchronous chorusing (chimpanzees) For: may explain unconscious “drives” Against: isolated, impoverished skills
  • Can account for music’s...
  • functions: yes (but not intentionality)
  • emotions: yes (but not spirituality)
  • structures: yes (but not their complexity) Grade: C
  • 2. Non-adaptive pleasure seeking(Pinker, 1997; cf. Huron, 2001-2010)
  • Uses multiple existing neural systems:
  • motor, ASA, language, social, aggression...
  • Counterevidence
  • based on accident – could go in the wrong direction
  • musicians do not get addicted and suffer withdrawal
  • Accounts for music’s...
  • functions: no
  • emotions: yes
  • structures: no Grade: D
  • 3. Mate attractionDarwin (1871), Miller (2000)
  • Evidence:
  • more male than female musicians
  • more creative when sexually active
  • Counterevidence:
  • no gender difference in music abilities
  • humans are smarter than peacocks
  • Accounts for music’s...
  • functions: yes
  • emotions: yes
  • structures: no (peacock colors are arbitrary) Grade: C
  • 4. Training (Roederer, 1984) Children play with music (in times of bounty and safety) to train survival skills (in times of shortage and danger)
  • performance, dance  physical skills, coordination
  • listening  cognitive skills, language Doubts:
  • Does this kind of training really promote survival?
  • Is there a “Mozart effect”? Accounts for music’s...
  • functions: no (individual)
  • emotions: only pleasure (not all, strong, spiritual)
  • structures: maybe Grade: C
  • 5. SocializingRoederer (1984), McNeill (1995), Brown (2000)Freeman (2000), Cross (2009), Huron (2001)....
  • Evidence:
  • Human rituals (church, soccer...) achieve “convergent emotional states”, “socio-affective confluence” (Bisham)
  • Primate grooming time increaseswithgroup size (Dunbar)
  • Accounts for music’s...
  • functions: yes
  • emotions yes: pleasure no: spirituality, strong emotion
  • structures: maybe Grade: B
  • 6. MothereseDissanayake (2000), Falk (2004) Larger brain + bipedalism earlier birth
  • infant fragility = “atriciality” (strong evolutionary argument)
  • more parental care  survival
  • new, complex infant-mother interaction (difficult since partners are very different) Accounts for music’s...
  • functions: yes
  • emotions: yes
  • structures: yes Grade: A
  • May also account for...
  • reflective language
  • theory of mind
  • all arts
  • From motherese to music
  • * Long-term multimodal recognition memory
  • for repeated, emotional patterns of sound and movement
  • ** In play and ritual, behaviors similar to motherese
  • evoke “motherese feelings”
  • are reinforced by operant conditioning
  • From motherese to music “It is not surprising that societies all over the world have developed these nodes of culture that we call ceremonies and rituals, which do for their members what mothers naturally do for their babies: engage their interest, involve them in a shared rhythmic pulse, and thereby instill feelings of closeness and communion. The inborn propensities for imitation, reciprocity, and emotional communion in infancy have become further elaborated and used in ritualized and ceremonial forms that themselves build and reinforce feelings of unity among adults, all of which ultimately serve to hold the group together.” (Dissanayake, 2000, p. 64, cited by Davies) Infant musicalitye.g. many studies by Trehub and collaborators Sensitivity to...
  • melodic contour; relative pitch/duration
  • specific musical intervals (e.g. fifths)
  • changes in unequal scales/rhythms + pulse (Winkler et al., 2009; Phillips-Silver & Trainor, 2005) These are “predispositions” “evident in infancy, before they have obvious utility” (Trehub, 2001)
  • Utility of infant musicality(Parncutt, 2009, 2010) Adaptations: prenatal audition, motherese 1 million years = 50,000 generations Byproduct: music 100,000 years = 5,000 generations Origins of infant musicalitytwo possibilities
  • Genetic (Trehub) selection for music (mate attraction, training, social glue, motherese…)
  • Learned (Parncutt) prenatal exposure to changing maternal sound, movement and hormone levels
  • Why is motherese not accepted as an OoM?
  • Motherese is not music
  • no practice-based expertise
  • no audience (private, active)
  • Link to music is not...
  • evolutionary (out of fashion!)
  • documented (no data!) (but competing theories have similar problems!)
  • Portrays women as musically active
  • Contradicts a pervasive cultural stereotype
  • Is OoM research sexist?an academic question – not moral, ethnical or political Evidence: 1. Popularity of mate attraction hypothesis (Darwin) ...although male & female music abilities do not differ! 2. Neglect of motherese hypothesis (Dissanayake) ...although no other theory satisfies all major criteria! Sexism and evolutionary theory In efficient hunter-gatherer societies, men and women have different roles in reproduction and survival
  • sexism is “natural”
  • we are all sexist
  • Sexism and social psychologyBearman et al. (2009) Study of conversations: 45 pairs of female friends Analysis by categories of internalized sexism:
  • assertions of incompetence (powerlessness)
  • competition between women
  • construction of women as objects
  • invalidation or derogation of women Result: On average, one such statement per minute
  • both men and women are sexist
  • Sexism and music history “Great music” was composed by white males Philosophical explanation (Kant): The female mind comprehends...
  • beauty: small, curved, soft, gentle, delicate
  • but not sublimity: rough, jagged, fearsome Culturally transmitted stereotypes:
  • (some) men are musically active and deep
  • women are musically passive and superficial
  • Covert or subtle sexism “hidden or clandestine...unnoticed because it is built into cultural and societal norms” (Swim & Cohen, 2006) Microaggression “unconscious and unintentional expression of bias and prejudice toward socially devalued groups” (Sue, 2010) Conclusion: take this theory seriously! Motherese as the origin of musicDissanayake (2000), Falk (2004) Larger brain + bipedalism earlier birth
  • infant fragility “atriciality”
  • more parental care  survival
  • new, complex infant-mother interaction Accounts for music’s...
  • functions: yes
  • emotions: yes
  • structures: yes
  • Maybe also for...
  • reflective language
  • theory of mind
  • all arts
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