Why Do We Groove?


According to Don Brown’s “Human Universals” list (which I’m sure you can find on the Internet, but which I have open in front of me), the following behaviors can be found in every human culture ever discovered:

  1. •Music (vocal and other)

  2. •Music related to dance

  3. •Musical repetition

  4. •Musical variation

  5. •Music seen as art

  6. •Children’s music

And a few more.

So the question is, why? Or rather, I think there are two questions:

1. Why did music develop?

2. Why do we enjoy it?

How did it come to be that humans, across the globe and living every possible mode of existence, all find something worthwhile in banging stuff together, or modulating their voice in a way that seems to be independent of language?

And why do we like to hear them do it? Why does a rhythmical thumping make us want to bob our heads a bit?

People have theories, including one that says that men invented music to score chicks. (link thanks to aldaily.com) But as Stephen Pinker says in the article, those theories aren’t exactly backed up by science.

The closest thing I have to a theory to answer the first question is that music is another form of communication, and it began that way.

If you want to make a sound that represents something else, you make the sound with your mouth and everyone agrees that the sound represents the other thing.

As you learn to use tools, though, you could make sounds by striking a rock with a stick. Again, your society decides that the sound represents X. Danger, let’s say. And just as humans are good at finding patterns in language, they’re good at finding patterns in other non-random sounds.

So a bunch of thumping in a pattern is recognizable to us, and can carry meaning. Simplistic, I know, but I don’t see why we need a deeper reason to have developed music. It does carry meaning.

Unfortunately. I can’t finish this post now, ‘cause I need sleep! But in order to meet my weekly deadline, I’ll post it as is, and see if I can get a part 2 going next time.

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