Now, I might be going out on a limb here because I’m no anthropologist, but I do enjoy endlessly researching random topics once in a while. I remember reading about how, through experiments done with chimpanzees and gorillas such as the famous Koko, scientists confirmed that although these primates can recognize melodies and learn patterns associated with said sounds, they cannot actually synchronize with another member of their species (or human) in song or dance. This led to the conclusion that humans were the only species capable of singing, performing and dancing to music, but I want to push this conclusion a little further.
Music is defined as “the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.” Basically, music is a melody composed in conjunction with a “beat.” Although birds sing and dance in amazing ways, they are typically expressions of their mating vocabulary meant to impress females and aren’t meant to be shared or performed with a member of their own species, let alone follow any synchronized patterns. Although it could be argued that animals are synchronized through their instincts and nature, I believe that music is inherently human because it requires that one let go of their natural response, in favor of performing in an almost mathematical way for a piece to sound cohesive.
So what about all that other stuff that makes us human? The combination of introspection, tools, opposable thumbs, bipedality, and extreme intelligence makes for a great case that would separate us humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. Still of them are unique to us: dolphins and primates also have most of those traits. Ok, you might be thinking that you got me with the fact that only humans have developed language, but let me lay a quick mic drop for ya: anthropologists have confirmed that music predates language by almost 30 000 years, and that language is a result of a human’s melodic mind, not the other way around.
Personally, I think it’s rad as a musician and music-lover that I can state with confidence how humanity was born out of music. However, It kind of bums me out at the same time that an important part of our society still undermines the importance of music (and art in general) to a person’s well-being. Music is an essential service, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person that can go an entire day without consuming entertainment containing at the very least a jingle or a synchronized performance.
Written by Davide Spinato
*Edited by Dominic Abate