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POSTPONED: Open Seminar: Greg Bryant (UCLA) - 'The cultural evolution of music'

Greg Bryant
Thursday, November 18, 2021, 10:50 am – 12:30 pm

*** UPDATE: due to the Austrian COVID-restrictions, the seminar is cancelled and is rescheduled till further notice. Thank you for your understanding. ***


Human music consists of a diverse set of behaviors and abilities, both in its production and perception. Most of the capabilities that give rise to music are present in other species, but are uniquely integrated in humans. Like many complex human phenomena, music is a product of cumulative culture exploiting aspects of our evolved psychology. And also like other multifarious human abilities, such as language, this culture-cognition interface occurs in the context of rich social interaction. Music is derived from a long list of abilities that did not evolve for the purpose of music, ranging from auditory scene analysis, to language processing, to sophisticated tool use. In this open seminar, I will discuss the logic of this approach to understanding musical behavior, including a taxonomy of relevant cognitive and behavioral adaptations, their interrelationships, and ritualization effects of cultural evolution. I will end with discussion of adaptations potentially most directly contributing to the music faculty, including infant-directed song, and coalition-signaling in music and dance. Overall, this approach suggests that a search for musical universals should be at the level of underlying mechanisms, and not the surface features of music, which has traditionally been the goal of many music researchers.