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Every Child a Composer

Music Education in an Evolutionary Perspective

Nicholas Bannan

This book breaks new ground in drawing on evolutionary psychology in support of advocacy for music education, and the presentation of innovative musical pedagogy. The book adopts the perspective that musical experience is the birthright of all human beings through the decisive role it played in the evolution of our species, the traces of which we carry in our genes. The author draws on scientific developments in acoustics, neuroscience, linguistics, archaeology and anthropology to examine theories that have emerged powerfully during the last twenty years and which argue for the significance of the practice of music as foundational to human culture. This position is examined in parallel with research into how children learn musically, and the role that creative decision making plays in this. A series of strategies is presented that explores collective creativity which draws on vocalisation, the use of gesture, and instinctive responses to harmony to develop musical imagination.

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Chapter 1: Music, evolution and self-expression


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Music, evolution and self-expression

This book sets out to embody an approach to music education informed by recent research in neurology, archaeology and anthropology that represents a fresh critique of the role of music in human culture. A new conceptual framework emerging in the range of sciences that examine the phenomenon of music, its perception and transmission, has its foundations in the writings of Charles Darwin. Darwin proposed that human language, unique to our species, must have had origins in an existing capacity for vocalisation to which he attributed the properties of musicality: musical behaviour was the bridge between animal communication and speech (the ‘language of the missing link’, perhaps). This idea applies the consequences of Darwin’s most compelling and influential theories for the mechanism of evolution: Natural Selection (1859) and Sexual Selection (1871). Natural Selection is accountable for our anatomical capacities, for the most part shared between male and female, conferring the distinct physical properties on which controlled vocalisation depends: voluntary respiration; the configuration of a vocal tract that allows wide variation of resonance and tonal production; and a brain and aural system clearly devoted to exploiting the potential of these anatomical adaptations to permit meaningful and compelling vocal production and perception. Especially noteworthy is the human capacity for highly accurate simultaneous performance, in unison and at the octave, dependent on close rhythmic entrainment and shared intention. Darwin placed his proposal for the musical origins of language (Moore and Desmond...

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