Original Music

[This is a complement to a previous Musical Origins related post]

Assuming an Out-of-Africa model, 200,000 years ago there was a second hominid migration of the evolutionarily dominating Homo sapiens into Asia and Europe. This migration, for the most part, absorbed or replaced other hominid populations. Music could have potentially originated at any point and region during this extensive growth of Homo sapiens, either in Africa, Asia, Europe or simultaneously and independently therein. I think it is most probable that Africa was the original birthplace of music (or at least protomusic). Africa would have been home to Homo sapiens for the longest of any of these continents and archaeological evidence shows our ancient species was culturally pretty sophisticated at this time, judging by artifacts. As humans began to use their cognition to discover tools and language they would also discover music. Their material culture not only had tools but symbolic items. Unfortunately, things like animal skin drums, gourd rattles, sinew or plant fiber strings, and the like biodegrade easily and so vanish into history’s mysteries.

To speculate, protomusic likely was some sort of affinity for rythm that was manifested from redundant processes. For example, marching along incessantly to find new hunting and gathering lands could have bred cadence-like chants or body slapping; processing foods with mortar and pestle or breaking open shelled food could have triggered drum-like experimental instrumentals; and of course protolanguage and protomusic may have co-evolved or one influenced the other with a communicative protosinging. The imagination is the limit as we cannot find proof of something so ephemeral and immaterial. Regardless, the origin of music was social and not necessarily directly useful to survival; it was entertaining and/or spiritual, and surely communal.

It may even be possible that ancestors of Homo sapiens, such as H. habilis or H. erectus, could have been doing some sort of music prior or alongside Homo sapiens. When humans first discovered music it likely would have been of a simple sort. It was likely made with the body or by the rhythm of stone tools used in everyday life. Once humans began to recognize and use music it began to be more pervasive and evolve in form and purpose. Human groups probably began to bond together in different ways with the use of music similar to how sharing language would have. Once this group affiliation for music began it would be incorporated into their culture via use in rituals, spiritual communication, and other communal expressions. They could use music to tell stories and pass on histories. They could find new ways of making sound and thus begin to invent new instruments. They could add physical expression in dance and costume. Further, they could discover trance and make the connection between music and the extra-human world.

As Homo sapiens began to extend into Asia and Europe it is likely that during this multi-thousand year exodus process their music evolved well beyond it’s humble beginnings in both complexity and variety. More and more humans were beginning to exist and with more behavioral variation (as both practical and extraneous cultural innovations). These societies began to evolve into tribes and chiefdoms and likewise music co-evolved. Everyday music would continue to be performed by layfolk to pass time, worship, or lullaby, but now music would be specialized in certain contexts. Like all economic and cultural duties, music began to be performed by specialists. These specialists made it easier for themselves by creating structured ways of making their music. The idea of structured music likely spread around to various cultures and each adopted their own unique way. As states began to emerge the specialization only continued; and alongside, interconnection between different cultures occurred. People began to identify strongly to their cultures in contrast to others. This demarcation of human groups allowed for specified styles of music to evolve. Amongst this is also the evolution of musical instruments. As culture evolved the tools of music were changed to suit the need and desires of the group.

From this point on all I can say is, music can be original in two ways: First, music can be original to it’s history and tradition. Second, music can be original in it’s unique production; that is, as cultural evolution. In all, music as a social and cultural device can be impetus for discovery and development of a people with most of the material involved being brain matter. And clearly, it is an ever evolving commodity and an ever fascinating quandary of human nature and it’s origin.

13 Comments

  1. I think those primitive beats are pretty well engrained in us all. I play some Native American and Panamanian native beats on my Panama tambor and the little ones automatically go bongo. It’s funny to see, and it takes no practice. They just love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. I’ve seen many toddlers barely able to walk be able to shake their booty to the beat. Something about cadence is engrained in the human brain. Exaggerate that toward an endurance dance marathon and you have a trance inducing device as well.

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  2. Fascinating stuff wonderfully presented. However, Given the relativity of space/time and the mysterious nature of inspiration, I often wonder if some backward (or perhaps downward) flow of information could take place.

    Let me elaborate… Say a departed soul enters the realm of eternity and can inspire beings living in a time frame prior to the one he or she lived in. Or, possibly a person living in the “present” or “‘future” could influence someone living in their “past.”

    How could someone influence another through time?

    Well, we don’t have physical time travel but perhaps psychological time travel is possible.

    Just some hypotheses I’ve come up with. Sort of a ‘chicken or egg’ scenario. 😃

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    1. Not sure what you’re getting at here. All I can say is time is likely more real as a dimension within the human mind than it is real as part of the universe as a whole. Time is illusory and so hard to reasonably hypothesize about. What do you mean here exactly?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good question and admittedly it is a challenging topic. Especially since our created universe and its creator are essentially mysterious. I disagree, however, that we cannot hypothesize about time and possible interactions across time(s). Part of the problem in communicating exactly what I think stems from my impression that we’re operating within different paradigms, based on our respective life experiences. We also might have different ideas about what we mean by the word hypothesis. I was thinking more along the lines of this:

    hy·poth·e·sis
    hīˈpäTHəsəs/
    noun
    a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.

    Keep an open (but critical) mind. 😉

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    1. Great point. I try to use many paradigms to make one, but of course that only adds to the proverbial problem. Ultimately though, time is conceptual rather than existing beyond human thought. I prefer to think of it as a material cycle rather than a tick-tock-goes-the-clock type thing.

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      1. Well, from my perspective I’d say you BELIEVE that “time is conceptual rather than existing beyond human thought.” But again, we might have definitional problems.

        Consider this analogy. Not sure if it’s the best to suit my purposes but I’m throwing caution to the wind. Not trying to “win” the argument but just trying to explore ideas.

        You eat a chocolate bar and the taste is very real to you. That is because the chocolate bar existed before you ate it. And it partly exists after, combined with other things, as waste in the sewer.

        Could we not say a similar thing with spacetime? It is not just in your head. Not only an immediate experience or conceptual construct. There’s also a multidimensional field out there… perhaps not entirely disconnected but beyond what we normally identify as our own self. Actually, I would say innumerable fields. Hence my hypothesis that it might be possible to reach out and connect across fields… psychologically, that is.

        To me, this is an alternative to the theory of reincarnation, where some people seem so sure they have experienced glimpses of their own “past lives.” I think in some cases they might be psychologically connecting with other selves thru the fabric of spacetime.

        Actually, my theory is a bit more complicated than that. But this is good for now. 🛸👀

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        1. I agree with you more than I let on. My version of reality is that there are dimensions myriad. As cognitive agents were forced to perceive simplified views of the universe. The universe, beyond human cognition, is in a unified state. One example is our amazement at quantum entanglement. This is just a normal effect of a unified dimension appearing to be non-local to our biased minds. As you said, “my theory is a bit more complicated than that. But this is good for now.” I must say though: Thanks for adding such great insight!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Right, it’s fascinating stuff. I guess one concern I had was that you might have been lapsing into solipsism. I’ve considered and rejected that. Mostly for ethical reasons. Not so much for the standard “because God wouldn’t fool us” argument.
            I tend to agree with your take on QE. Broaden the perspective and suddenly the strange doesn’t seem quite as strange. Still lots of mystery though. Our minds (and brains) are limited… but I think we do pretty well as a species. 🌍🌞⭐

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Interesting, I don’t think I’ve considered the idea that “nothing exists”—unless I did and forgot! 🙂 Even Buddhists believe in a so-called plenum void.

                For me, solipsism is not a good option because a believer in sol. can always ask, “What if I’m wrong? What if there really is other life out there?” Given this uncertainty it’s reasonable and right to try to behave ethically… if one cares, that is.

                Some folks might be wired wrong or get stuck in bad choices but imo only God can judge them in the ultimate sense. Down here, we can try to stop them from harming others, messing up society, etc.

                Liked by 1 person

  4. It is striking what an integral role music can play in a culture, movement, or group identity. Regardless of geography or other background, all peoples are attracted to and will create their own music. As you remarked in a previous comment, music is somehow part of us.

    I have a couple of younger brothers who like to watch PBS shows. In many of them, this concept of “innate musicalness” and creating music from any material arises in at least one episode to teach kids how anyone can make music. One reason for the universality of music, I think, is the ease of producing it. While not everyone can, say, write a novel, everyone can play music.

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