Steven Jan

Published On


Page Range

pp. 63–164

2 The Evolution of Human Musicality

  • Steven Jan (author)
Chapter 2: explores the evolution of the human capacity for music, looking at what is known of the physical, cognitive and social development of our species from our early hominin ancestors (starting with Australopithecus) and the role music may have played in this process (as cause and/or effect). In this sense, music is discussed as an adaptation (or potentially an exaptation), and its various survival-enhancing roles – in the enhancement of social cohesion, in sexual selection, and in infant nurture – are explored. Key to this chapter is its consideration of the relationship between music and language and the structural marking, in brain function and hemispheric localisation, of this relationship. This topic forms a six-section thread running through Chapters 2–7, and the basic position taken (after Steven Brown and Steven Mithen) is that mu-sic and language arose from a common ‘musilinguistic’ ancestor – this made up of increasingly discrete, replicated (memetic) sound particles – that bifurcated into spoken language and expressive music around 200,000 years ago. Structural correspondences between music and language, explored here in and in Chapter 3, are taken as evidence of this common ancestor.


Steven Jan