Four Hurdles For A Scientific Theory Of Music
    By Mark Changizi | April 6th 2010 12:21 PM | 55 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella 2009) and Harnessed: How...

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    There’s a good chance that you’re listening to music while reading this, and if you happen not to be, my bet is that you listen to music in the car, or at home, or while jogging. In all likelihood, you love music – simply love it.

    Why?  What is it about those auditory patterns counting as “music” that makes us relish it so? 

    I have my own opinion about the answer, the topic of my recently finished book that will appear next year, Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man. I’ll give you a hint as to my view at the end of this piece, but what I’d like to do in this piece is to put forth four hurdles I believe any theory of music must leap over.

    Brain: Why do we have a brain for music?
    Emotion: Why is music emotionally evocative?
    Dance: Why do we dance?
    Structure: Why is music structurally organized as it is?

    If a theory can answer all four questions, then I believe we should start paying attention. To help clarify what I mean by these questions, let’s run through them in the context of a particular lay theory of music, namely the “heartbeat” theory of music. Although there is probably not just a single heartbeat theory put forth by lay people, the main motivation appears to be that a heart carries a beat, something fundamental to music. Of course, we don’t typically hear our own heartbeat, much less others, so when it is fleshed out I have heard it suggested that it comes from our in-utero days. One of the constants of the good fetus life was Momma’s heartbeat, and music takes us back to the oceanic, one-with-the-universe feelings we long ago lost. I’m not suggesting this is a good theory, by any means, but it will aid me in illustrating the four hurdles.  I would be hesitant, by the way, to call this “lub-dub” theory of music crazy – our understanding of the origins of music is so woeful that any non-spooky theory is worth a look. Let’s see how lub-dubs fare with our four hurdles for a theory of music. 

    The first hurdle was this: “Why do we have a brain for music?” That is, why are our brains capable of processing music? For example, fax machines are designed to process the auditory modulations occurring in fax machine communication, but to our ears fax machines sound like a fairly continuous screechy-brrr – we don’t have brains capable of processing fax machine sounds. Music may well sound homogeneously screechy-brrrey to non-human ears, but it sounds richly dynamic and structured to our ears. How might the lub-dub theorist answer why we have a brain for music?

    Best I can figure, the lub-dubber could say that our in-utero days of warmth and comfort get strongly associated to Momma’s heartbeat, and the musical beat taps into those associations, bringing back warm fetus feelings.

    One difficulty for this hypothesis is that learned associations often don’t last forever, so why would those Momma’s-heartbeat associations be so strong among adults? There are lots of beat-like stimuli out of the womb: some are nice, some are not nice. Why wouldn’t those out-of-the-womb sounds become the dominant association, with the Momma’s heartbeat washed away? And if Momma’s lub-dubs are, for some reason, not washed away, then why aren’t there other in-utero experiences that forever stay with us? Why don’t we, say, like to wear artificial umbilical cords, thereby bringing forth recollections of the womb? “Cuddle with your umbilicus just like the old days. You’ll sleep better. Guaranteed!” And why, at any rate, do we think we were so happy in the womb?  Maybe those days, supposing they leave any trace at all, are associated with nothing whatsoever. (Or perhaps with horror.) The lub-dub theory of music does not have a plausible story for why we have a brain ready and excited to soak up a beat.

    The lub-dub theory of music origins also comes up short on the second major demand on a theory of music – that it explain why music is evocative, or emotional.  Heartbeat sounds amount to a one-dimensional parameter – faster or slower rate – and are not sufficiently rich to capture much of the range of human emotion.  Accordingly, heartbeats won’t help much in explaining the range of emotions music can elicit in listeners.

    Psychophysiologists who look for physiological correlates of emotion take a variety of measurements (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance), not just one. Heart sounds aren’t rich enough to tug at all music’s heart strings.

    Heartbeats also fail the “dance” hurdle. The “dance” requirement is that we explain why it is that music should elicit dance. This fundamental fact about music is a strange thing for sounds to do. In fact, it is a strange thing for any stimulus to do, in any modality. For lub-dubs, the difficulty for the dance hurdle is that even if lub-dubs were fondly recalled by us, and even if they managed to elicit a wide range of emotions, we  would have no idea why it should provoke post-uterin people to move, given that even fetuses don’t move to Momma’s heartbeat.

    The final requirement of a theory of music is that it explain the structure of music, a tall order. Lub-dubs do have a beat, of course, but heartbeats are far too simple to possibly explain the many other structural regularities found in music. For starters, where is the melody?

    Sorry, Mom. Thanks for the good times in your uterus, but I’m afraid your heartbeats are not the source of my fascination with music.

    To tip my hand on my upcoming book, my view is that music has been culturally selected over time to sound like human movement, something I have also hinted at here 

    ( ) and here ( ).  

    We have a brain for music because auditory mechanisms for recognizing what people are doing around us are clearly advantageous, and were selected for. Music is evocative because it sounds likehuman behaviors, many which are expressive in their nature. Music gets us dancing because we social apes are prone to mimic the movements of others. And,finally, the movement theory is sufficiently powerful that it can explain a lot of the structure of music – that requires much of the my book to describe. I admit that my hypothesis sounds implausible, and I ask that you wait to hear the book-length argument for it.

    But here I would be grateful to hear your own ideas on the origins of music. And I’d be keen to see if you can address the four hurdles above! 


    But here I would be grateful to hear your own ideas on the origins of music.
    No secret that I am a fan of the idea that music came before language and was the first communication bridge in brain evolution but I think 'music' in the broad sense rests primarily in culture.    And ...
    Brain: Why do we have a brain for music?
    Obviously Western notation is music we like but in the East they like something completely different.   And it changes even in the west.   In the early part of the 20th c.  a  I vi IV V  progression was incredibly popular but then in the late 1950s everything became the I IV V and variations on 12 bar blues.

    So the question is perhaps why we have a brain that likes music at all but the "you will get filthy" rich issue is why we like different types.
    Mark Changizi
    On "filthy rich", one should add "filthy sex" the sense that, for some reason, successful male musicians often get more sex than even your most aggressive elephant seal. Perhaps that should be a fifth hurdle to explain. -- or to strive for.
    I wrote about this regarding the Greek Muses. Before we could even call it music, humans probably had rhythm!

    Also, if you listen to very early music, such as classical Greek or Roman - assuming they've interpreted the few fragments correctly - it too sounds nothing like our current fave rhythms. I'm not sure what our earliest music is; perhaps Vedic hymns, which are chanted to various mathematical sequences thereby giving rise to different rhythms.

    Interesting article, as always.
    1. The brain is wired for music, because it is necessary for survival. The newborn's first sounds, cries for food, stimulate the production of milk. The longer the infant has to wait to be fed, the more the volume will increase and the scale position of the notes will rise. The mother will respond with as much alacrity as she can muster, pick up the distressed and distressing baby and begin nursing. She might begin to sing to comfort both herself and her offspring.
    2. Music is emotionally evocative because the brain has been conditioned by cries for food to respond positively. After being fed, the infant often makes cooing sounds of pleasure, which pleases the mother so eager to enhance communication that she emulates the sounds her baby is making, initiating a primal duet. Naturally, in cases of extreme fatigue and postpartum depression, the response may not be altogether positive, resulting in temporary or lasting neglect, depending on the severity of the condition. The resultant maternal moans are 'bluesy' and subconsciously designed to engage the father's sympathy, motivating him to help.
    3. We are wired to dance because we walk bipedally, are accustomed to feeling energy in our calves and hamstrings, and motivated to avert/alleviate boredom by varying the routine of moving forward by stepping from side to side and turning in partial or entire circles. Like walking, walking,bicycling, or swimming, dancing feels good and, probably produces endorphins.
    4.The present organization of music structures is the result of millenia-long development through trial and error. Its primary goal was to facilitate the production of vocal and instrumental music to accurately reflect the creativity of the composer.The story-teller/historian in a paleolithic community, might well have enlivened his tales with drumming and chanting and influenced the development of the plain song.

    Mark Changizi
    Thanks, Robert. I really like the first two, and  I don't recall having heard them before anywhere. 
    Gerhard Adam


    As for having a brain for music, I think you can actually be much more fundamental which is that we have a brain that is practically obsessed with patterns and their recognition.  So whether it be visual patterns, auditory patterns, or even repeated patterns of events, we tend to notice.  So it doesn't seem like a stretch to see that one of the initial appeals of music is that it fits our desire for patterns.

    I would also suspect that before a more formal type of music, rhythms probably were used and developed.  From rhythm it isn't much of a stretch to begin placing natural sounds within the context of such rhythms whether it be birds whistling or a creek running over rocks.  Any number of sounds can be fit into a rhythm which fits our need for patterns.  Perhaps at an emotional level, early music was intended to "replay" such environmental sounds to identify locations or to allow identification with places.  Most groups tended to move around alot, so it's possible that such a capability could have been a precursor to language.

    Once such a basic structure existed, it could've served quite well for helping memorization and many other aspects of the oral traditions by creating a kind of chant or ritualistic speaking that would be important in storytelling and passing on information.  From here it becomes a simple matter to extend it to re-enacting significant events (i.e. dancing) and singing.  After all, I don't believe it's a coincidence that songs invariably are intended to tell stories, while even other animals would engage in rituals that we interpret as dancing as it relates to courtship. 

    Such examples are hard to reconcile properly because I'm always reminded of something like a botanical garden, where it is obvious that people are enthralled with the plants of the natural environment, but invariably every garden is an extremely well organized affair that lacks the randomness found in nature.  Consequently our patterns and musical structures may have originated from natural phenomenon, but our incessant demand for patterns would also cause us to perpetually restructure and control its expression into the forms we tend to see now.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Mark Changizi
    So, the hypothesis (for you and Patrick) is something like: Music is "designed" to tap into our desire for patterns. ?  For "brain", our brain certainly is always on the look-out for patterns. But it would seem unclear to me how "emotion", "dance" and "structure" are accommodated. For the latter, for example, there are tremendous regularities across music (despite many "surface" differences) in terms of how beat, rhythm, pitch contour, loudness and tempo are structured, and the theory would appear to be way to non-specific to possibly explain why we like *musical* patterns, rather than the infinitely many other kinds of auditory patterns that can be generated.

    You also hint at another hypothesis: That music is "designed" to replay environmental sounds. My own hypothesis is that, specifically, music has been culturally selected to sound like people moving, and, and so this hypothesis is more down my road. But *general* environmental sounds don't have the properties we find in music, in my analysis.
    Gerhard Adam
    ... the theory would appear to be way to non-specific to possibly explain why we like *musical* patterns, rather than the infinitely many other kinds of auditory patterns that can be generated.
    But we do ... have you never found yourself hearing some external sound that is rhythmic and found yourself tapping a finger or foot to it?  Especially where you might add your own additional rhythms or counter-rhythms, this seems quite common such that it is unconscious behavior.

    Bear in mind that dancing is primarily a type of courtship movement and we've certainly seen it used in the arts as a storytelling device (i.e. ballet), so it seems quite reasonable to suggest that may have been the basis for it's origins. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    I agree with much of what Gerhard says.

    Our sensory inputs are geared to the abstraction of repeating patterns.

    Brain: Why do we have a brain for music?
    We have a brain that recognises patterns as repeated sequences of data or concurrent data inputs.  The brain makes use of the memory of pattern as a means of predicting future pattern.  That is the root of science, also of music.  We predict weather and seasons.  In music and rhythm, even if never heard before we seem able to predict with some certainty what note comes next.  We also do that with language but are more aware of it with music.  The brain for music is a predictor based on Shannon entropy and simple rules of musical syntax in a specific theme.

    Emotion: Why is music emotionally evocative?
    The brain is highly associative.  It also is wired for categorisation.  The brain will categorise anything: people, stamps, books, trains, clouds etc.  It will categorise sounds heard according as they sound similar to sounds heard before in certain contexts.  Movie music is a case in point.  We can recognise the likely movie theme from hearing music for a film we have never even heard of.  It may be that music evolved from sounds such as laughing and crying - the sounds of affect.

    Dance: Why do we dance?
    My favorite topic in AI - haptualisation.  According to theories of how brains evolve, sense of position and motion is lower down the scale than sight.  Perhaps the link 'motion makes sound' becomes rewired through an auditory reinforcing feedback as 'sound makes motion'. We 'understand' music at a deeper level of a 3D haptual model of our own bodies.  It is a dynamic model: given a dynamic input - music - it 'wants' to demonstrate motion.  If the drive for motion moves into consciousness, a person will feel urged to move.

    Structure: Why is music structurally organized as it is?
    We impose structure on nature by abstracting significant elements and ignoring small details.  We see anything vaguely square as if it was really an abstract geometric shape.  The eye-brain filter does a tidying up operation.  Once we have an idealised internal model of the world, we try to impose that model back on reality.  Music is one of the few areas of reality where we can impose our precise idealised model on reality.  Having a world that more nearly fits our internal model of what we feel 'ought' to be is aesthetically satisfying.

    5 Success: Why is musical ability so well rewarded?
    An ability to mimic the sounds of nature has obvious survival value.  A mimic who can decoy an animal into a trap, for example,  will be a good provider.  Selective mating for mimicry talent would be part of the driving force behind the evolution of musical appreciation.  That is why, today, chicks dig powerful displays of musical ability.

    Gerhard Adam
    Why is musical ability so well rewarded?

    I don't know about the mimicry.  I just remember reading an article once that said no matter how good a guitarist you were, you'still wouldn't look as cool as Eddie Van Halen playing.
    Mundus vult decipi
    wouldn't look as cool as Eddie Van Halen playing.

    Cool?  You want cool?  This is as cool as it gets. ;-)

    Mark Changizi

    I'm skeptical, though, that from this one could predict, say, structural features of music. But I'm a bit confused about what the hypothesis is: pattern seeking, laughing / crying / vocalizations, haptic models, ...


    All forms of art, whether as drawing, painting, architecture, prose, poetry, music etc. have the same foundations.

    The human brain abstracts the most salient features of the environment and builds mental models for future reference in planning and playing.

    When we make any artifact we make it conform to the social norms which derive from our imposition of pattern on our environment.  We 'tidy things up'.  As a species we generally prefer 'a place for everything and everything in its place'.  That is the foundation of our aesthetic sense.

    The urge to make or seek 'perfection' and the urge to show others what our brains have selected as significant from myriad possible inputs: these are the biological drives that lead to our perception that there is pattern and beauty in nature which can be captured by art.

    Without a human to hear it, music is just sound waves.  With a human to hear it, music well performed exhibits a performer's ability to impose pattern on the environment.  That ability has fundamental survival value.  It should thus be no surprise that when a human makes music to the highest standards, it is perceived, consciously or not, as a mating call.
    *general* environmental sounds don't have the properties we find in music, in my analysis.
    A pastoral

    The rhythmic drip of water into a pool.

    The gentle sighing of the wind through leaves.

    A bird chirps occasionally.  If you listen carefully, you notice a regular pattern.

    It rains, in gentle spatters that come and go with the rising and falling of a gentle wind.

    The rain falls more heavily.  The bird changes its tune.

    Puddles have formed and the drip of water into the pool has an ever stronger accompaniment.

    A drum roll of thunder.

    Heavy rain smashes down, drowning out all other sounds, except -

    the crash of a lightning strike.

    The rain stops suddenly.


    The bird tilts its head to the sky and says 'chirp', as if to ask mother nature -

    "Is that all you've got?"
    This is a very interesting topic that plays right into the old philosophical question "What makes us human?"

    Is it coincidence that great musicians are said to have "soul"?

    Gerhard Adam
    No, it's not a coincidence.  Any musician, after mastering their instrument, must be capable of expressing feelings and/or emotions through their instrument.  In fact, there are many instances of people that may be virtuosos, but they lack anything that makes the music interesting beyond their technical skills.
    Mundus vult decipi
    A perfect example in my mind (and I know I might start a riot if there are any of his fans around here) was Stevie Ray Vaughn. The man was quite possibly the most technically gifted person to ever pick up a guitar, but he just didn't have that something extra, "soul" if you will, that made guys like Hendrix so great. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for SRV, and I like to watch him play (and have many of his albums), but if years down it comes out that he was actually a super high-tech secret robot programmed to play guitar, I actually wouldn't be all that surprised.

    Gerhard Adam
    Actually that's sort of my personal criteria for distinguishing between those two types of musicians.  If they are more enjoyable to watch playing than they are to listen to, then they are clearly in the technical realm.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Wow! A lot of interesting discussion. As a musician and a researcher into consciousness, to the point that I came up with a specific area to address the effect of devices on human consciousness, I have my own theories on music and why we like it. I agree with the pattern seeking aspects. I also agree that environmental sounds don't approximate music enough to be the foundation for the beginnings of music. Yeah, certain things can seem like music and music has been created to imitate sounds of nature, but the sounds of nature are no where as complex as some of the simplest melodies that a child can even create. 
    Beyond pattern recognition I believe that dynamics in sound and then unexpected changes in melody or structure that even may fit within the context of a particular song, are a stimulus that our brains enjoy. 

    This is the first place that I've read that Stevie Ray Vaughn  wasn't a soulful player. Stevie was a blues player first and a Hendrix derivative second. The reason he may not have sounded as soulful as Hendrix is that he was not as much of an experimental player and he didn't have the exact Hendrix sound electronically, although when he felt he had to, he would try to approximate it, nicely enough I might add. 

    Here they are, head to head,  live with the same song. See for yourselves.

    People underestimate the effect of electronics on a song. The beginning of Foxy Lady played without the electronic feedback would be pretty weak. Instead that sound grabs the mind and focuses a particular state of concentration on it, unless one is inclined to hear it simply as noise. If not, the noise, the sound, the rhythm, the melody, the beat, all become an aural experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere in nature...

    People are too used to thinking of music in its classical, western sense. Music is beyond that. The advent of modern recording technology made possible sounds and arrangements never before imagined. It is the music that was created in that technological wake that out sells classical worldwide and has for decades. I'm not bashing classical because I was raised on it and like quite a bit of it, but it wasn't classical music that made me want to be a musician. It wasn't even rock music in particular that made me want to be a musician. It was one song, one sound and one guitarist, all together on a single recording that did the trick. The song was Walk Away, the sound was distortion, wah-wah, echo, feedback, vibrato arm technique and string bending, and the guitarist was Joe Walsh. 

    The howling ending reminded me of a fighter plane peeling out of formation to do a strafing run. It was when I realized that music isn't really about notes but about sounds and music can be made with sounds that aren't usually thought of as being musical and the most powerful instrument in the world capable of delivering such all encompassing potential was the electric guitar and I had to have one and I had to learn how to do the same thing. I was 10. By 14 I would learn that the most powerful instrument ever created was really not an instrument per se but could be played like one, just not live. That instrument is the recording studio. Once you learn to "play" the recording studio, your take on music changes and the more versatile you get, the more your view on music evolves beyond the apparent causal links between pitch, melody, and rhythm and into a new kind of language that they don't teach in any music school. 

    Actually, you can play the recording studio live, when you're the sound man for a band. In fact, many sound men are considered as an extension of the group. Like any live performance, it is a raw experience and so when executed properly makes the entire process appear much easier than it actually is.

    But any good producer knows that it isn't just about the technology. You can strip it all away and if you have a really good song, you can just create pure magic with just a hollow body acoustic guitar, despite the engrained memory of the song's original 16 track debut with an unlikely group of singing kids.

    Such is the complexity of music and why it has the impact it does on  our minds...

    Mark Changizi
    Thanks, Marshall, for the comments. My own view, as I've tipped my hand in the piece, is that music does mimic one thing in nature in particular (mostly), and that's the sounds of people, moving. When people move, there's a rich set of regularities one (a scientist, like me) can derive and measure, and we surely evolved to have specialized auditory mechanisms for sensing where and what people are doing around us, i.e., evolved to have specialized auditory mechanisms that latch onto the rich set of auditory regularities that are the signature of people moving in our midst. Music, I argue, has these auditory signatures of humans, moving. ...and probably, moreso, sound like humans moving expressively. Music, in my view, is essentially a story about a fictional (exaggerated) human mover; a story your auditory system understands, but doesn't necessarily relate to your consciousness. 

    And thanks, all, for the brilliant comments! Best -Mark
    Gerhard Adam
    Yeah, certain things can seem like music and music has been created to imitate sounds of nature, but the sounds of nature are no where as complex as some of the simplest melodies that a child can even create. 
    I don't think the sounds of music are necessarily a simple imitation of the sounds of nature.  In my view the sounds of nature are what introduced some of the more rhythmic elements that pre-dated music.  However, I still believe that music is an imitation of the human voice.  Whether it be rhythmic chanting which gave rise to singing, the musical instrument is an attempt to emulate the voice, ultimately to tell a story.

    A lot of older music (especially if you listen to folk music) is more highly repetitious that the structures we hear today and fits well with the idea of chanting without regard for the creation of any particular melody. 

    Part of the problem is that we don't have any knowledge of the types of sounds that might have preceded the development of human language.  Perhaps some of those early sounds may the origins of singing or chanting.  One of the interesting aspects in considering this is that singing is one of the few mechanisms where someone can sing a song phonetically and not sound like they don't know the language.  At the very least it seems that particular accents seem to disappear in the process of singing, as well as people that may have speed impediments may not experience any difficulty with singing.

    Obviously I'm just speculating, but it is an interesting topic to consider.
    Mundus vult decipi
    One of the interesting aspects in considering this is that singing is one of the few mechanisms where someone can sing a song phonetically and not sound like they don't know the language.  At the very least it seems that particular accents seem to disappear in the process of singing, as well as people that may have speed impediments may not experience any difficulty with singing.
    Gerhard: I agree with this but for one caveat: the person in question must actually be able to sing, hence ineligible for most TV talent shows.

    Mark: I agree with the idea that most people are attuned to tracking things by means of sound.  I can't locate sound, so tend to overlook that human faculty.  And yes, the ability to discriminate the sound of human movement from the sound of a T. Rex must have saved the life of many an ancestral creationist. But - wouldn't that be proof of evolution in action.  ;-)
    What I meant was that there are certain pieces of music that have been created to imitate nature. Certainly not all music, in fact probably very little of it has been done for this reason, but I know that there is some. But I don't see "music" in these broad terms that people seem to be using here. Probably because my concern has never been how it was developed. My interest has been why do babies like it and what kind do they like. A baby isn't thinking about cavemen and whether these sounds predated language or not. A baby is cognitively deciding what these sounds are and if they should be paid attention to. If the baby likes them, it will not only pay attention, but close attention.

    A baby is as good as it gets if you want a subject to study the effects of music because they have no prior frame of reference. They're a clean slate.

    The fact that babies display the ability to be selective as to what they like indicates a high degree of cognitive processing going on. As a technocognineticist, that's what I find the most interesting. If you add visuals to the mix, it becomes even more important. What is this baby thinking while he watches the Beyonce video? Clearly he is responding to the rhythm and melody but he never takes his gaze from the screen. As approximately 300 changes in light and camera distance from subject flash before he eyes, mixed with the varied and dramatic moves of the dancers, what is he thinking? He is certainly thinking something...

     How music began, to me, is more an anthropological an issue and has little to do with music today because music is always being reinvented. What may have been a really good jam to Cro-Magnon man probably wouldn't pass the mustard at a Jane's Addiction show but a Cro-Magnon man would probably get into a Jane's Addiction concert after he got over the initial shock, because it's about primal power and emotional release (note the impromptu dancer, who then stage dives).

    But I want to point out that while the pounding rhythm and emotional singing are representative of other elements that have been present in music before, there is something of wonder about the sound of fast, emotional lead guitar playing, that can't really be approximated any other way.  Sure violin soloists can play just as fast and emotional and they put pitch wheels on synthesizers so that keyboardists could bend notes, but there is something about the electric guitar sound that resonates powerfully all over the world and yet the instrument is only about 50 years old.

    We as humans are constantly changing and developing new things. How those things effect the youngest of us provides us with insights into who we really are and what innovations could be possibilities for the future.
    You should hear the song that the sky lark sings just outside my bedroom window each morning. I'm telling you it's as complex as anything Bach, Beethoven or Mozart ever composed, and quite beautiful as well!
    We as humans are constantly changing and developing new things.

    And to understand how we can do that we must look to what evolved behaviours we call on when listening to music.  Adults often cannot understand the music preferences of their children, but it still calls on the same neural mechanisms.

    Don't forget context when discussing musical preferences.

    In the context of the age of clockwork, this music is highly evocative:

    It still is, Patrick! Mozart, Beethoven and Bach all send me into a heavenly bliss. I am the most creative when listening to music like this.

    I become very analytical when listening to Bach and very passionate when listening to Beethoven or Mozart.
    You're missing the point. Your thinking that we're calling on "evolved behaviors" is a very big assumption for which you have presented little evidence. What evolved behavior is baby Brixton calling on? It's easy to assign some kind of evolved behavior to someone who can stand on two feet and be mobile, but the appreciation for music doesn't require that. It doesn't even require intelligence, per se. Even animals respond to music. In fact, it is one of the areas that I find fascinating as it is yet just another aspect of human life that animals appreciate and couldn't obtain otherwise, like the thrill that a dog gets when sticking its head out the car window as it speeds down the street. 

    Then there's this cat who has taken to trying to figure out the piano after listening and watching humans do it. What I find fascinating is the similarity between the cat and small children who want to play but don't know how and so just peck around with it.

    I think reliance on an evolved behavior is reliance on a hidden assumption. But that's only coming from someone who's only been studying the phenomena of music and creativity for about 36 years, has been composing for 38 years, been a multi-instrumentalist for 38, and been looking at how music effects consciousness for 20. 

    I don't know if you actually do drawing, painting, architecture, prose, poetry, or  music, Patrick, but as someone who has, your approach to the subject seems rote. As a product of the youth music revolution (perhaps the only one in human history at that) I have wondered why different generations have liked different music, but instead of wondering about it I actually looked into it and I found that none of the dated and biased material that staid critics of pop used to crank out about how the Beatles and rock were an inferior form of music was correct. In reality, music, when taken out of a strict cultural context, can be appreciated across generational boundaries. So you can have rockers incorporate classical like Emerson Lake and Palmer, or a rock 'n' roll chick like Linda Ronstadt do a Nelson Riddle album or even my mother having the guilty pleasure of liking AC/DC. Thinking that the same neural mechanisms requires that they be cognitively processed the same way psychologically ignores the psychological part and I don't see the evidence for the psychological part being the result of an evolutionary behavior.

    The cat likes music and so does baby Brixton. Where the evolution?

    I like the cat!
    Classical themes are quite common in rock music of the 60s, 70s  and even later.....

    And this is down right operatic....

    An excuse to play some of my favorites! LOL

    Ah yes, Eric. and I'll see your Moody Blues 

    and Emerson, Lake and Palmer 

    and raise you a Yes!

    Excellent choices, Marshall! ;-)
    Your thinking that we're calling on "evolved behaviors" is a very big assumption for which you have presented little evidence.
    Evolution is well established.  All living creatures exhibit evolved behaviours in the sense that they exhibit behaviours that their more primitive ancestors were incapable of.  For example a flowering  plant closes its flowers at night, and some close at a touch.  Wolves howl - their distant single-celled ancestor, presumably, didn't and couldn't.  Evolution.

    I don't know if you actually do drawing, painting, architecture, prose, poetry, or  music, Patrick
    Only for about 60 years.

    The Albatross

    It ain't oils, but it ain't a photo!

    Even pixel manipulation is art.
    Despite your argument about evolution, you still failed to answer my simple question about what evolved behaviors the cat and baby Brixton are exhibiting. You haven't even defined what evolved behaviors you originally referred to, thus my statement about your lack of evidence still stands.

    Your comment about the exhibition of evolved behaviors that their predecessors didn't have fails with my example of Cro-Magnon Man at the Jane's Addiction concert.

    Personally, I don't think music appreciation has a thing to do with human evolution, especially since I've witnessed how reptiles, lower mammals, and higher ones - all nonhuman, have responded to music. I also think that to a certain degree there is extensive cultural bias involved with what music is appreciated and by whom. If it was simply based on biology, then everyone would like everything. The fact is that they don't. Any so-called theory of music that doesn't address that issue will have a pretty big hole in it. 

    I think that Mark's approach to music is rather presumptive in a number of ways, beginning with how it presents the organization of the requirements for a theory of music:   

    Brain: Why do we have a brain for music?  As I have pointed out, nonhumans appreciate music as well, so who exactly is "we"? 

    Emotion: Why is music emotionally evocative?  This one is a good question and I'll leave it alone.
    Dance: Why do we dance?  Not all music is danceable nor do all people who like music dance. People also dance to things that are just rhythm and lack any sort of sophisticated melody. So a theory of music can exist without this consideration. 
    Structure: Why is music structurally organized as it is?   Musical structure? This is too ambiguous and structure needs to be more clearly defined. There has been plenty of music produced that deliberately attempted to defy organized structure, so I don't know what this means.

    My work has been in defining what music is, how it impacts our consciousness and what the next level in advancement will be. In pursuing that I discovered a specific set of elements that are inherently suggested in all music, which when released, have profound effects on human consciousness. Because this research was conducted as part of a commercial enterprise, I can't reveal anything else about it, as it will have a profound effect on the entirety of the music industry when it is released in 2011, and all technical aspects of it are now proprietary trade secrets. So yeah, it's worth million$. Because it can be applied to all musical forms, it will be the most revolutionary thing that has happened to music since the creation of recorded music. 

    I'll tell you one thing for sure, right now. I would never have discovered it if my research into music had been based on this evolutionary approach. 


    P.S. Nice pic. Ever notice how, if you look at it a certain way, it appears that the sea gull is flying above clouds that partially obscure a green landscape far below?
    Mark Changizi
    Looking forward to hearing more about the entrepreneurial idea. On "brain", my view is that music (for humans) has been culturally selected to sound like people moving, but some aspects of people moving are not unique to people, and some aspects are. The more general movement regularities could, in principle, be more easily appreciated by non-humans. (E.g., when you hear your dog moving around the house, it sounds different in many ways to the sounds of a human, but is similar in other ways. I hint at some of this here: .) On "dance", I agree, not all music elicits dance, and one's theory better not say that all music does. But the harder part is to explain why some music does make one dance. That's weird! ...and needs explanation. For "structure", there is an giant multidimensional space of possible sound patterns that we could be listening to, and music only falls in a teensy tiny regime of this huge space. For example, loudness tends to change on time scales of several to dozens of measures, whereas pitch tends to change on time scales of a beat or shorter. Why not vice versa?

    I read your article and I think that you have done some good work except in assuming the causal relationship between those elements of every day movement and music, that indicate that they  would result in the creation of music. 

    For example, you think it's weird why music can make people want to dance when your own theory puts the answer right in front of you. People like to move. They also like to watch other people move. When they hear music, they want to try to move to it in a way that most closely approximates what they think that music is about, or how it makes them feel. The music doesn't make them move it, only encourages them to move with it. But it doesn't stop there because you have to factor in the technocogninetic effect of the resultant motion to that music. For example, people who don't feel like dancing will probably tap their feet or maybe even clap their hands in time. Why? Simply because they want to move in a way that they feel comfortable? No. The difference is that dance is usually a motion that is silent whereas foot tapping and hand clapping are motions that result in sounds. That rhythmic motion that produces sound makes up for the lack of more expressive forms of movement by making the person a minor participant in the production of the music, or should I say, the sonic experience of it. What both have in common, beyond the mere idea that people like to move, is that the technocogninetic effect of the music is a psychological experience that is more complex than simple evolution of the auditory mechanisms of the ear because the technocogninetic effect deals with the psychological result, which is beyond the simple interpretation of what the sounds mean in as far as direction and motion, etc. 

    So dancing, which I feel is beside the point, actually should be viewed as a response to music using an activity - motion, that is already established but when done in conjunction with music results in a heightened experience which can be further amplified (or dampened) by the further participation of other dancing individuals who then contribute further dynamics into the process. In fact, the music itself can be a secondary factor, a sonic wall paper if you will, that provides the backdrop for ritual motion which may have any variety of purposes. This, in fact, is what primitive drumming is all about. The dance that is done, to a certain beat combination of a variety of drums, can be more about that beat, with those drums, fitting a predetermined set of movements the best rather than the cause for those movements. This is why I believe you get in trouble with your interpretation of causal relationships. There are too many exceptions to the rule that can be cited for it to stand on solid ground.

    Based on your work I know that you would be intrigued and excited by what I have discovered. Unfortunately, commerce will preclude my divulging the research data, even after the demo album is released, in an effort to control and milk it for every cent we can before others start to duplicate it. Our business plan is pretty solid - produce a demo album and sell it, akin to how Switched on Bach was a demo album for the synthesizer.  The album gets entered into the Grammy's and probably wins one in the technical category. That's the minimum level that we can get for sure. The best is to do the album with an emerging artist that has label backing and then we could maybe get best album as well as the technical Grammy. Either way, the result will be the selling of a lot of albums and artists of every stripe wanting their albums done the same way. My refusal to explain how it's done puts me in the position of being the recording producer in demand, as well as being able to market a number of ancillary products. My connections to and experience with the music industry make this something other than idle chatter through my hat. 

    In any event, your theory will be interesting to read, as well as the public reaction to it. 
    Gerhard Adam

    I still maintain that the precursors to music were simple rhythms.  Many things that humans routinely do are quite rhythmic whether it be walking, running or breathing, each induces a sense of rhythm that our brain recognizes.

    We still engage in such rhythms during bouts of physical training.  Military, martial arts, and even plain exercise all tend to go "by the numbers" and invariably produce natural rhythms that help us focus and avoid the boredom of long repetitious activities.  This is why people tend to listen to music while jogging or on a treadmill.

    It is a reasonable presumption that such rhythms might also have been employed to reinforce training for hunts or war with the rhythms providing a time-keeping element to direct the motions of the actors.  After this it is straightforward to see how this could evolve into a dancing activity whereby such hunts or wars could be re-enacted for other tribal members. 

    We can see the same thing when we observe marching or a drill team.  They display rhythms and the sounds of marching feet convey that feeling to an audience watching them.  It isn't that such activities are in unison, but rather than they are in a rhythmic unison that makes them effective.  When one observes something like a rifle drill team, the rhythm extends to the visual.

    Similarly we see the same thing in chanting.  Whether it be a drill instructor counting cadence, or a tribal war dance, or a priest saying mass.  Each invokes a ritualistic element of speech that manifests as rudimentary singing.  I also don't think it's any coincidence that many primitive instruments were more flute-like conveying the sounds of birds or other natural sounds.  For the most part instruments are intended to replace the human voice.  Consider how B.B. King discusses his blues phrasing as emulating a female singer, or Clapton's "woman" tone, or when we talk about the screaming or wailing guitars.  Each of these is emotive because it helps us relate to a human's vocal experience in some way.  Is it any surprise that live cannons could be used in the 1812 Overture?  ... or the rhythms of "We Will Rock You" sound like a stadium full of people stamping their feet?  These have the effect of power displays that also affect us emotionally in the images they conjure up.

    I also don't think it's a coincidence that music has a relatively narrow structure since most people don't have a significant vocal range so something like two octaves would be quite rare in a single individual. 

    Overall the desire to dance may be little more than our ancestral sense of group participation. 

    It is also obvious that music has evolved down it's own path as well, so that much of what we consider when we examine music would bear little or no resemblance to what our ancestors experienced. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Marshall: I'm not suggesting that evolution can explain music mechanistically.  I don't subscribe to the idea that Skinner boxes can explain Beethoven.  I was merely suggesting that a scientific theory of music must explain why we, and many animals, react to music as we do.  What is the evolutionary advantage?  I already suggested one advantage for humans:

    5 Success: Why is musical ability so well rewarded?
    An ability to mimic the sounds of nature has obvious survival value.  A mimic who can decoy an animal into a trap, for example,  will be a good provider.  Selective mating for mimicry talent would be part of the driving force behind the evolution of musical appreciation.  That is why, today, chicks dig powerful displays of musical ability.

    Many animals indulge in play.  Perhaps there is a link there to general cross-species musical appreciation?

    Glad you liked the picture.  It was a deliberate attempt at ambiguity: there are various conflicting cues to the angle and height of the waves and the bird.  I never saw it as clouds, though.  Thanks for that.  It gives me an idea for my next bit of photo-phakery.  ;-)
    Finally! You've hit the nail on the head. What is the evolutionary advantage? This is an excellent point although I suggest that it is beyond the biological advantage of more procreation opportunities. As you have said, and I have shown, animals and people can appreciate music. Animals can even produce music of their own kind, and in some instances, our kind as well. Let's look at all the other activities that humans do that animals can do as well. What is the difference? The difference is that due to Man's higher intelligence we can do most of those shared activities better. We can't fly on our own, for example, but due to our superior intelligence, we created the technological means to fly faster and farther than any creature of natural flight. 

    Now, what about music? There is a technocogninetic effect clearly, from listening to music for both humans and many animals. However, we humans, because of our superior intelligence, can make more sophisticated music and be inspired by it in more powerful ways than animals. The cat wants to play the piano, but doesn't have the intelligence to be able to figure out exactly which keys to press and when. That particular cat is smart enough to know that the keys make the sounds but it doesn't know yet which keys make what sounds and when to push them. It is trying, but it is also trying against the natural inclination to be thinking about other things than imitating this activity that the humans do. Not to mention that it has no fingers, so it has a physical disadvantage, as if it were to attempt faster keyboard play it would also be dealing with balance issues. Balance, to a cat, is a very important issue.

    But need I remind you that many researchers have pointed out that music can literally expand the mind, and help with better understanding of math and spatial relationships? In other words, to answer your question about the evolutionary benefit of music, the answer is that it prompts us to exist more in our heads than merely on the outside environment. The psychological experience can result in greater insights, higher forms of thought which then can produce better problem solving and innovations. It is the ultimate form of feedback - because we were prompted to produce simple sound arrangements we found that we responded to them and they were useful, which eventually resulted in more varied and complex sound arrangements which became to be known as music and then resulted in more complex forms of music for a wider and wider range of purposes but never ceased to end to this day. 

    So, the evolutionary benefit is the psychological inspiration that is the result from being able to process elementary sound arrangements into more sophisticated patterns that our animal friends may enjoy or approximate in their own way, but never be able to fully realize. 
    It ain't momma's heartbeat. ;-)

    Hey, Patrick:
    Look at the large green area that begins to the left in your pic. Note the similarity of the lines there to topological markings you would see from an ariel view of a green grassland. Now note how those lines have some curves, as if an indication rolling hills. Now look above and below that, the grayish blue looks like a large body of water, as if the land is part of some kind of peninsula. 

    Pretty interesting effect, even if it wasn't intentional...
    Thanks again, Marshall.  You've given me some cool ideas to play with next time I'm in the mood to get well and truly pixelated.
    I was wondering if music could be a social / mating ritual of solving and seeing problems.
    The first person creates a new pattern of sound the second person, if they can workout the pattern and fined value repeats it and adds something new to the pattern. With each new pattern you get innovation and evolution.

    Rhythm was probably added with bagging of sticks as rhythm is an easier pattern to solve than a vocal pattern. A dance could be added to the pattern as a new pattern with value of increasing the hart rate + sexual drive and showing they have understood the first pattern.
    The Victor Borge video show this in action (not the sexual drive)

    Language could be the result of looking for new patterns and repeating patterns as every thing ells that people have created.
    Thanks for this challenge -- Here's my shot: at a theory, a brief synopsis of the book I am likely to never have the time to write, set forth here devoid of my references but please do trust that I do have them, dutifully noted in my account and often fragmentally mused in my blog and my twitter feed :)

    why do we have a brain for music?
    this question is the root question, and the question is backwards: what we call music is so because of our brain, or more exactly, because of who and what we are, and it is not just the brain. For example, the diatonic scale, Dale Purves finds, is intrinsic to human speech formants, rhythm is intrinsic to the identification of sounds (patterns of neurons do a drum-sequence of firings, not taking the whole wave, merely sampling features and producing a neural pattern that can then be associated to the experience) and people will dance when the music fits the available rhythms of which their limbs can swing. Rhythmic language can also evoke movement and delight.
    why is music emotionally evocative
    Ornette Coleman remarked that if someone was talking to him in Russian, he could likely still understand if the speaker was happy, sad, angry or whatever. Purves (I think it was) also finds that the interval choices in happy speech tends to major, sad speech to minor, so again, the relation is the other way around, our emotions change our speech patterns and our music, being an 'abstracted' speech mimics this feature so as to communicate or induce emotion.
    why do we dance?
    my case here is not so strong: other animals dance but only so organized when it is a ritual, and indeed we do dance very elaborately for rituals and much of our dancehall motion of all genres could be put down to combining the ritual with the body-rhythm, but that does not explain why a polka makes people (young and old) clap. However I think that the clapping phenomenon may be part of it: by mirroring the rhythms heard and observed, we amplify the effect of the rhythms; see recent research on behavioral contagion in humans, it could be we seek to maximize teh induction effects of the musical impulse in ourselves by synchronous behaviours to the pulse, like how a gentle wind can twist a massive bridge by applying only that little bit of resonant energy. Since vision, sound and haptic sense are all just touchstone inputs to the pre-frontal self-experience image, the brain polling all channels to build its world model, thus sound, lights, motion or clapping are equivalent inputs to "rock one's world" and the effect, now mirrored locally internal to the local person, is contagious to other nearby humans, and voila, you have a dance happening. It is like pushing someone on a swing, if you push them at just the right moment and with just the right gradient of accelleration, you get a great deal more swing for your effort; I have seen fiddlers do this slyly on a dancefloor, seizing a moment in the music to virtually catapult people into a dance.
    why is music structured the way it is?
    First of all, from the above we see music is structured to fit the organism. Whales have their music because of who they are, we have ours because of who we are, dogs, dolphins, cicadas etc. Jazz-Fusion drummer Steve Smith (from Frank Gambale's band) believes it reduces to the ability of the brain to abstract from complex information and distill to fundamental information, of which the fundamental numbers become 2 and 3; Steve points out that the essential characteristic of 'good' rhythm in most world musics is the interplay between a 2-beat and a 3-beat polyrhythm, what Jazz calls 'swing'. Similarly in poetry we see rhythms of two and three used in contrasts, and in melodic phrases we tend to see twos and threes strung together with co-parts woven in as unison, half/double or third/triple time.
    why do we reward musicianship?
    Buddha asked "Given right thinking, does right behaviour follow?" and yes, I am paraphrasing. Many musicians believe their music, when played just right, is theraputic, that it can invoke some sort of spiritual or even a literally physical 'healing'. Hospitals find music in the rooms speeds recovery, but not all music. The military loves music because the lockstep of the march induces good following; big record companies are also very fond of this Pied Piper effect. I think it is an extension of the spontaneous hand-clap, a leveraging of our social-animal instinct, in a move to maximize the musical effect that then begets a contagion. In sociological studies of children in orchestras they find the working together to make a synchronous grand sound brings the players together outside of the orchestra as well, a social harmony follows. Clearly there is evolutionary value in such phenomena (and profits for EMI and Sony!) so those musicians who are able to hit those vocal-formant scales and 2:3 rhythm engines would be very valuable indeed!

    Mark Changizi
    Thanks, mrG.

    One thing missing for me -- just in terms of communicating to me your idea -- is what the hypothesis actually is. My hypothesis, for example, can be succinctly summarized roughly as... "music has been culturally selected over time to sound like expressive human movement." Then the game is for me to show how that hypothesis leaps over the four (or five) hurdles.

    From the discussion of the first two hurdles, perhaps your hypothesis might be something like, "music has been culturally selected over time to sound like expressive human vocalization." (?) ...although it is not clear if this would suffice to accommodate your ideas in the other three hurdles.

    fair enough: Sounds which have been culturally selected as seeming musical to the human organism are collectively called 'Music' That's about the best I can put it. For example, a musician left in the presence of any resonating chamber will invariably start playing with it, testing it against their human apparatus if you will, trying this and that the way Slonimsky said we should try his thesaurus of scales so as to decide for ourselves which were and which were not musical in nature. (ie, naturally musical) And I realize my definition excludes a great deal of what is sold as music ;) but that's ok, a great deal of what is sold as medicine or even dare I say sold as 'food' is in fact not really very much at all!

    My point being that it is the human apparatus, the frame of the body, the chambers of the sinuses and the structure of the throat and the respiratory system and the structure of the brain and the neurocognitive sensory systems which have by their nature pre-selected which external events we would consider to be music and which would be noise. That strange microwave-derived scale that uses tripling of the frequencies as the primary unit of the scale instead of the octave's doubling, it is numerically every bit as valid as the Pythagorean theory of music as deriving from vibrating strings, yet there is not a single one of the readers of this article who prefer that scale, and precious few who know of it. So clearly it isn't enough to be numerically harmonic.

    However, taking Dale Purves for example, if instead the diatonic scale preference found universally as the at-minimum pentatonic scale, when adjusted for the aberations from our mechanically convenient equal tempered scale predicts which tones would be most common, and which intervals would be more harmonious to a higher degree of accuracy than does the mathematical ratios of Harry Partch (another who, among the readers, is unlikely a hands-down favourite) All of this suggests the human is a priori to the music, that we have selected from the spectrum of sound and kept only that which appealed to our nature.

    yes, it is very hard to summarize in a blog post comments thread ;) but am I getting any clearer?

    Mark Changizi
    I think I agree! My own view is that "we have selected from the spectrum of sound and kept only that which appealed to our nature," and, in addition -- in my view -- the "nature" appealed to is primarily the sounds of people moving about expressively. 
    and now the tricky part: how could we distinguish whether the nature involves motion or if it involves the whole creature of which moving about is only one possible avenue of engagement? For that I propose the work done with infants and the unborn: these children have not yet moved, yet they are demonstrated to respond to music, they can remember diatonic melodies (responding to changes in the melody) but cannot do the same with atonal music. On the other hand, if language acquisition is a potential vector for music, then wouldn't we expect the unborn infant who we already know responds to language to also respond to the (diatonic) vowel formant tones? I'd have to look it up, but it seems to me they have also found rhythm perception (in the form of these memory tests) in the unborn.

    I suppose still it isn't cut and dried since what we're then both saying is that the unborn child has evolved to be (for whatever reason) predisposed to both language and dance, neither of which they have done and both which await them as living humans, although I'm still leaning to a conclusion that postulating a penchant for dance in the unborn is a bigger bit of a stretch -- I only observe my babies responding with rhythmic motion shortly before they can sit, about 3 months (admittedly it's been a long time since any of mine were that age, and the mrs tells me I am not going to be granted a 7th test subject for study ;)

    The mathematics in music could help distinguish back ground noise from intended noise, as birds and other animals do. When early man was around they would have been a lot more different types of birds and animals making noises and picking out a back ground pattern would be useful. People are very tuned into hearing a tune from one or two notes, as in “name that tune”.
    The tune would have to be a human sound and not a bird sound for it to be recognizable human.
    Music is more than just non visual communications saying “I am hear where are you”.

    I think music is more of a collective group bonding system.
    Teenagers collectively group around different musical patterns the musical pattern is designed for the older generation not to like it, helping to creating a separate group. Punk rock separated the younger generation from the older generation it all so had a higher beat increasing and reflecting the hart rate and adrenalin, in a way getting ready for war. The music was not so different that the older generation did not understand it as music. So it could have been used to avert war between young and old. In that way it could be a clever evolutionary response signaling the emotional intention from one group to another.
    I think this example of a practical use of music as an extreme example of expressing emotional state from one group to another there is probably a lot more and music could be used for and there could be mutable different uses. Such as communicating emotional intention non visually would be useful at night when mating.

    One of the interesting things with music is rate of change&adaptation much faster than environmental & evolution changes, as soon as we fined a pattern which is not that different than the old pattern we buy it, and if we hear the same pattern for a long time we get board with it. As music dose not seam to have any existing practical uses but has been around for hundreds of years there must be something human about it. If music just happened to match are physical and emotional make up I think we would just listen to the same types of music over and over.

    If an alien cam to this planet they could presume that music was how we communicate and the other sounds are just background noise we make. i.e. when we hear whale song  are they making music or talking?

    There is an interesting difference in what we perceive to be music and speech and the fact that we can recognize a difference, we see them as two different tools. To me music communicates inner emotional state better that speech and I would have thought it is better at communicating none visually to others that don’t speak the same language.

    Dancing may be a way of joining in and raising adrenalin with out creating more confusing noises. I instinctual feel that music came before dance because I have less emotional connection to dance and as such would have a higher brain function.
    Mark Changizi
    Awesome ideas, David, and most are possibly consistent with my own view, although my own view is not rich enough to really go that far. 
    also from developmental psychology we find the phenomenon of mother's songs. If music was merely langauge, then language would be interchangeable with song, yet in the the studies of women who vowed (for various reasons, usually because it was 'silly') not to ever sing to their babies researchers found that every last one of them eventually did -- if you want baby's attention, you have to sing for it, otherwise its no-go, and mama wants nothing other than baby's attention, so mama sings. it is inescapable.

    and of course, all parents know that babies are calmed by a swing rhythm; given that many women dislike walking during the last trimester, and many are ordered to bedrest, it doesn't seem reasonable that the swing rhythm has to do with mama's rocking hips. It is plausible I suppose, but to test that we'd need only find a paraplegic mother and ask her about her child's love of rocking.

    Brain: Why do we have a brain for music?

    According to my super-stimulus theory of music (see for details), music is a super-stimulus for the perception of musicality, where musicality is a subtle aspect of normal (non-musical speech). Every aspect of music is derived from a corresponding aspect of speech perception (and corresponds to some particular cortical map in the brain).

    Emotion: Why is music emotionally evocative?

    Music evokes emotion (or more precisely acts on emotion) because that is how the brain processes the subtle perception of the musicality of normal speech: it correspondingly modifies emotion, which in turn increases the affect of a particular speech utterance on long term memory.

    Dance: Why do we dance?

    Dance exists in relation to the non-verbal aspects of speech analogously to how music exists in relation to the verbal aspects of speech. (In particular, dance relates to gesturing.)

    Structure: Why is music structurally organized as it is?

    The structure of music is just one aspect of music which corresponds a corresponding aspect of speech (as with many other aspects, normal speech has structure, but it is not as regular as the structure of music).

    One thing about the super-stimulus theory which makes it different to all the other theories is that it does not suppose that music is "just" an example of other things that we already know about, rather it is a consequence of a specific and otherwise hidden component of human perception.

    Subjectively I think we know that music is a special kind of thing which isn't quite like anything else, and I cannot be convinced by any theory which does not account for the special and unique nature of music.

    Also, a full theory of music has to account, in detail, for every popular tune. That's not just four hurdles, its thousands of hurdles.

    Mark Changizi

    "rather it is a consequence of a specific and otherwise hidden component of human perception."
    My own theory agrees in this respect. Clearly there's a lot more to your story, and I look forward to looking at the book. (Any chance to have a copy all in one pdf?)  Best -Mark
    Mark, sorry I can't easily provide a single PDF. I've got my original tex source code, but I seem to have lost any single PDF's (because the computer they were originally on died from electrolytic capacitor leakage), and my installed version of miktex is both out of date and missing a required package. I can probably reconstruct the full PDF if I update everything, but in the meantime you'll have to download the individual chapters.

    i got a small theorie with this one , but to be sure it must be tested first.
    the test is simpel , a piece of land is needed where there is no hunting animals , only birds and such. listen to the sounds that are on that piece of land. if i am correct it should be like music, played according to a specific rythme that depends on the sounds the birds make ( usually they have a specific melody).
    now introduce a hunting animal , like a falcon or other hunting bird that attacks other birds and listen to the sounds again. it should now be a mess of sounds.

    my theorie is that we developed a brain for music to be able to hear when there is trouble. we use the suroundings , namely the other birds, to be able when something have changed. this can be an approaching hunter, or some new animal.
    if this theorie is correct then most prey animal should have a sense for music