The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body

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  1. The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body
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  3. Steven Mithen, The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
The Singing Neanderthals The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body

To be precise, it is provocative, fascinating and, I think, quite wrong on multiple points. But how much fun is it, really, to curl up with a book that lulls you into placid agreement? First, he starkly splits apart language and music: language tells us about the world, music manipulates our emotions. Second, he proposes a single evolutionary precursor to both language and music. Then -- and this is key move number three -- late in evolutionary history, as pressures for complex social living increased, our own true, compositional language emerged from Hmmmm.

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Sentences were now made up of words, which in turn were comprised of infinitely-recombinable segments. Once this transition was completed, what was left of Hmmmm? Primarily, music.

The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body

First, it recognizes gradual evolution of both language and music. As anthropologists find out more and more about the sophisticated language- and culture-related behavior of African apes, our closest living relatives, we realize that the evolutionary platform represented by our ancient ancestors was probably fairly sophisticated too. Indeed, Mithen might be surprised to know that two bonobo apes living in an enriched environment are decidedly musical.

Kanzi plays the drums and the xylophone, and Panbanisha the synthesizer and the harmonica. It might not satisfy a music teacher, but they enjoy it just as children enjoy creating sounds with musical instruments.

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Physical description ix, p. Online Available online. Full view. SAL3 off-campus storage. M73 Available.


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More options. Find it at other libraries via WorldCat Limited preview. Bibliography Includes bibliographical references p. Contents The need for an evolutionary history of music The present.

More than cheesecake? Grunts, barks and gestures : communication by monkeys and apes ; Songs on the savannah : the origin of 'hmmmm' communication ; Getting into rhythm : the evolution of bipedalism and dance ; Imitating nature : communication about the natural world ; Singing for sex : is music a product of sexual selection? Summary Along with the concepts of consciousness and intelligence, our capacity for language sits right at the core of what makes us human. But while the evolutionary origins of language have provoked speculation and impassioned debate, those of that other aural and vocal communication system, music, have been neglected if not ignored.

Like language it is a universal feature of human culture, one that is a permanent feature of our daily lives and one that is capable of both expressing and inducing intense emotion.

Steven Mithen, The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body

In The Singing Neanderthal, Steven Mithen redresses the balance, drawing on a huge range of sources, from neurological case studies, through child psychology and the communication systems of non-human primates to the latest paleoarchaeological evidence. The result is a fascinating and provocative work, and a succinct riposte to those, like Steven Pinker, who have dismissed music as a functionless and unimportant evolutionary byproduct. Human evolution. Bibliographic information.