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Date(s) - 05/05/2016
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Social Sciences Room 1 (G28), UWA

UWA Seminar Series

Presented by Nicholas Bannan

Developments in several disciplines over the last few decades have initiated a re-examination of Darwin’s conjecture, arising from both his theories of natural and sexual selection, that a capacity for vocal music evolved in humans prior to language and, indeed, presented the articulatory and aural prerequisites for spoken communication. This view, of music as a bridge between animal communication and language, pre-dated Darwin in the speculations of Vico and the French philosopher Rousseau and the composer Rameau, and versions of it were later argued by von Humboldt, von Helmholtz and Nietszche in Germany, and the linguist Jespersen. Twentieth Century developments in forensic technology have brought to this project tools able to provide a greater insight into how the evolution of a capacity for music may have occurred. Archaeologists themselves have recognised that, while we cannot reconstruct the song or conversation of our ancestors in deep history, it is unhelpful to imagine that they were silent. This presentation surveys a variety of evidence arising in several disciplines to support von Humboldt’s view that we evolved as a singing species.

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