Four principles of bio-musicology. - GreenMedInfo Summary
Four principles of bio-musicology.
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015 Mar 19 ;370(1664):20140091. PMID: 25646514
W Tecumseh Fitch
As a species-typical trait of Homo sapiens, musicality represents a cognitively complex and biologically grounded capacity worthy of intensive empirical investigation. Four principles are suggested here as prerequisites for a successful future discipline of bio-musicology. These involve adopting: (i) a multicomponent approach which recognizes that musicality is built upon a suite of interconnected capacities, of which none is primary; (ii) a pluralistic Tinbergian perspective that addresses and places equal weight on questions of mechanism, ontogeny, phylogeny and function; (iii) a comparative approach, which seeks and investigates animal homologues or analogues of specific components of musicality, wherever they can be found; and (iv) an ecologically motivated perspective, which recognizes the need to study widespread musical behaviours across a range of human cultures (and not focus solely on Western art music or skilled musicians). Given their pervasiveness, dance and music created for dancing should be considered central subcomponents of music, as should folk tunes, work songs, lullabies and children's songs. Although the precise breakdown of capacities required by the multicomponent approach remains open to debate, and different breakdowns may be appropriate to different purposes, I highlight four core components of human musicality--song, drumming, social synchronization and dance--as widespread and pervasive human abilities spanning across cultures, ages and levels of expertise. Each of these has interesting parallels in the animal kingdom (often analogies but in some cases apparent homologies also). Finally, I suggest that the search for universal capacities underlying human musicality, neglected for many years, should be renewed. The broad framework presented here illustrates the potential for a future discipline of bio-musicology as a rich field for interdisciplinary and comparative research.