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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 2: The vocal basis of human musicality as an evolved phenomenon


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The vocal basis of human musicality as an evolved phenomenon

In writing about the relationship between anatomy, neurology and acoustic communication, Martin Braun remarked (2002) that all mammals are walking wind instruments: they cover the range from the infrasound rumble and audible trumpeting of the elephant to the piccolo squeak of the mouse, extending to the ultrasonic echo-location of bats. This accounts for the original evolutionary basis of our own abilities, which depends on anatomical prerequisites shared with ancestor species millions of years prior to their shaping our vocal potential in the relatively recent history of the Homo lineage (Bannan 2003; Morley 2012). But humans are rare among land-based mammals in acquiring a communicative system that exploits the relationship between the vertical (timbral, intervallic) and the horizontal (contoured, melodic) properties of pitch and range implicit in the Harmonic Series. Some aquatic mammals (whales, seals) have been shown to possess a degree of ability on these lines (Payne and Payne 1985; Ralls, Fiorelli & Gish 1985): I have a recording of a humpback whale (Brocklehurst 1987). that clearly explores the properties of the Harmonic Series over a low E flat, including jazz-like cadenzas that relish the seventh harmonic. The musical abilities of a variety of birds are also impressive (Taylor 2008; Low 2014), as are their capacities to mimic the sounds of other species, including human language and music (Pepperberg 2009; Powys, Taylor and Probets 2013). Nevertheless, we are unique amongst our...

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