The World in Six Songs

The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature is a fascinating book with the premise that there are six functions of song (music) in human culture.  He backs up his ideas with scientific data, and he frequently uses tales from his own experience as a musician and record producer (in his pre-research scientist days).  He works to answer the questions “Why is there music?” and “Are we musical because our brains made us that way, or are our brains adapted to music because we are musical?”  He explores the social advantages to being a musical being and through the six categories of song, he presents a very cohesive and coherent argument.

The six categories of song, as posited by Levitin, are: Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion and Love.  Songs of Friendship are songs of camaraderie, togetherness and creating a functional large group.  The selective advantages (Levitin talks of evolutionary advantages) of being in a group that works together for a collective whole are obvious.  Society as we know it could not exist if we were unable to get along within larger collectives of people.  A big way of getting a group to work as a unit is through music.  Think of the last time you were at a baseball game and everyone sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  The entire stadium is able to work together as a unit.  Also, “Music has historically been one of the strongest forces binding together the disenfranchised, the alienated.” (61) [···]

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