What is the origin of music? In the last few decades this centuries-old puzzle has been reinvigorated by new archaeological evidence and developments in the fields of cognitive science, linguistics, and evolutionary theory. In this path-breaking book, renowned musicologist Gary Tomlinson draws from these areas to construct a new narrative for the emergence of human music. Starting at a period of human prehistory long before Homo sapiens or music existed, Tomlinson describes the incremental attainments that, by changing the communication and society of prehumen species, laid the foundation for musical behaviors in more recent times. He traces in Neandertals and early sapiens the accumulation and development of these capacities, and he details their coalescence into modern musical behavior across the last hundred millennia.But A Million Years of Music is not about music alone. Tomlinson builds a model of human evolution that revises our understanding of the interaction of biology and culture across evolutionary time-scales, challenging and enriching current models of our deep history. As he tells his story, he draws in other emerging human traits: language, symbolism, a metaphysical imagination and the ritual it gives rise to, complex social structure, and the use of advanced technologies. Tomlinson's model of evolution allows him to account for much of what makes us a unique species in the world today and provides a new way of understanding the appearance of humanity in its modern form.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Erudite discussion. Magnificent
Crossposted from my review on Goodreads:
This book's subtitle really should be the title. It's much less about music and much more about the general emergence of human modernity, which the author wishes to dive into in order to describe the emergence of music.
As an undergraduate, the book was challenging but also quite clear and relatively understandable. He presents his ideas well, typically defines his terms in a clear manner, and does not assume a large amount of outside knowledge for most of the book except when he gets a little excited when discussing other peoples' work.
I personally felt like his model was a little too emergent-ist, though I did like the way he thinks.
When I started reading this book, I was expecting an evolutionary history of music, and while it is that, it is also much more; a great overview of human evolution and the interplay between music, the human brain and 'mind' in our species. I think Tomlinson's book is a great follow up to Levitin's "This is Your Brain on Music" (2006) for anyone trying to understand the nature of music. While Levitin's book is set within an evolutionary framework, it focuses primarily on the ways in which our modern brain, our physical senses and our nervous system are affected by music, how they are shaped by musical experiences, from the womb to old age, and how the brain and music have 'co-evolved.' Tomlinson is much more focused on the evolutionary history of our species and how music has developed in concert with our physical evolution. In this book, you will read about our human and proto-human ancestors and the evidence to-date for how music may have evolved over the last million...
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