Saturday, August 22, 2015

Music, Dance and the Survival of the Fittest

The thinking animal needs music and dance to survive. 

Darwin hushed the music. He thought, at first, that music and dance were not important for the survival of our species. Evidently, he wanted to think about music rather than listen and feel.  

Perhaps, unlike the Greek poets, Darwin did not want the Muses to distract him or, God forbid, get the him, as a clergyman, to move to the music! He was ignoring some important data. Music has preoccupied the poor, the rich,  and nearly all great thinkers throughout human history. What was Darwin missing?

After being perplexed for years of music's role in the survival of the species, Darwin eventually posited that music was linked to mating calls and these calls helped with propagation. Many scientists agree with this thesis. I myself wonder, Mr. Darwin:  Regardless of a musicians' gender, his or her music appeals to both sexes. One could argue, then, that music could confound reproduction since we are equally pleased with music produced by either sex.  The mating call theory just doesn't make sense from a survival perspective.

Fom my perspective, Darwin along with present-day prominent scientists are disturbingly ignorant of the powerful link between music and dance, and why they are so important to our survival.  Theoriests are stuck on slivers of truth. Because of my work as a therapist with psychological trauma, it is clear to me how music and dance help us survive as a species. If I were not already spending my time so usefully (dancing), the following would be my research project's thesis:

Animals can be psychologically traumatised, but the thinking animal is far more susceptible to debilitating psychological trauma. The thinking animal--the Homo Sapien--would stop propagating itself if it had no special way to process how it views tragic events or is facing extreme odds, catastrophic events or extreme social injustice. Here are some of the examples of how the thinking-musical animal remains resilient.
  • Bereavement:  Whether it is death or heartbreak, great loss is expressed best in and through music. Bio-musicologists see the first music evolving for reasons of hunting, sex or war.  These are slivers of truth.  The larger truth is our need to survive psychologically.   I see a Neanderthal woman rocking over a dying child, sobbing out the first song, bringing forth the first blues, the first music. And, just like a good cry, this primordial song helped her and every grieving mother since then go on with their lives.
  • The war dance:  Both dance and music serve to ameliorate psychological trauma. Ask a combat veteran how they used music to deal with the ravages of war. Music is omnipresent for warriors. If the veterans are totally overwhelmed with PTSD, they are unlikely to reproduce.  High rates of Erectile Disfunction with PTSD are common. Suicide among vets (now one every hour in the US) has long overtaken the death toll from combat.  Both are indications of how psychological trauma stops the propagation of the species
  • Music is the language of the limbic brain (emotions):  We communicate emotions through music better than words. Robert Schumann, both a writer and composer/pianist said, "To send light into the darkness of men's hearts-- such is the duty of the artist."  (See more below on Schumann.)  Music also expresses our greatest happiness and most profound spiritual ideas.
  • Who is most "fit" in our culture today?  Music is the secret key for the performance and survival of the fittest--our Olympic athletes:  In all disciplines, these fittest of all athletes utilise music to prepare for the highest levels of human performance.
  • Music gives resiliency to groups under duress and oppression.  Negro Spirituals, the Blues, Afro-Cuban music, Jazz, and Tango all come out of the horrors of a socially tragic circumstance called "slavery."  Yes, tango too!  Slaves were the uncounted majority in Buenos Aires at one time, and "tango" is an African term.
  • Depression:  Perhaps the clergyman Darwin forgot the biblical account in which King Saul requested that David play the harp for him when Saul was tormented with depression "... and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him." (1 Samuel 16:22).
Much of what has been said here appears to be all about music. How does dance fit in?  Dance and music simultaneously are created in the union of mind and body.*  The somatic response starts in bodily movement because simply walking creates a rhythm and rhythm starts the song. The entirety of music is rhythm, even tones are rhythmic frequencies. We Homo Sapiens cannot escape music. Music, through movement, haunts us as the healing spirit whom we cannot escape--nor would we want to.  The unity of dance and music enables us to survive and continue the species.

You must dance if you want to survive as the thinking animal.


Photo credit of Darwin requesting silence:

*Bio-musicology includes dance, song, drumming and social synchronisation as the four elements one can find among human beings everywhere and through time.

Other interesting stuff music and its connection with survival:
  • What were some of the stormiest times of your life? Some say around 16 years of age. Is music helping teens to cope with the stress of growing up and entering the world of the adult thinking animal? Youths in their middle teens spend more time listening to music than all other age groups.
  • Regarding overcoming social injustice, if we add catastrophic weather we have the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina: The community of survivors of Hurricane Katrina have found music to be the one most important elements to reunite and build their communities.
  • I will let Schumann test out his ideas on you. Music can express ideas better than words? He thought that his music spoke about ideas better than his literature.  I will leave that up to you.

  • It is not only the wounds of the mind--music has even been found to enhance the healing process of physical wounds.  I would like to see this same experiment with animals. I believe that it will not be as effective. I would guess silence and companionship would be most powerful for them.
  • Humanity's "clearest marker" has been considered to be speech. So theorists are naturally drawn to ideas that music is a subset of our facility with speech. There is some truth to this, especially in tonal languages, like Chinese. However, tonal language alone, reveals the fuller truth (such as whistling and yodelling). When tones become language, the brain reacts differently, but it does not make you dance. The linguist link to music, which some have said is probably why we are music animals is missing some good logic because the foundation of music is rhythm not tones.  See

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