Ethnomusicology Forum 25 (2):210-233 (2016)

Anton Killin
Australian National University
In this article I critique F. R. S. Lawson's evolutionary theorising about music that appeared in a recent issue of Ethnomusicology Forum. Moreover, I argue that asking whether music is an adaptation or technology, as Lawson does, artificially splits the interwoven, dynamic co-evolutionary forces at work. In my view, in cases of complex, dynamic co-evolution, the distinction between the ‘biological’ and the ‘cultural’ is undermined. I suggest that human musicality is one such example, calling into question the adaptation/technology distinction that frames Lawson's theorising about music. In place of that research framework, I offer a niche construction perspective, with reference to several brief ethnographic examples, and a ‘socio-cognitive niche’ picture of the evolution of music that takes seriously co-evolution and the project of developing empirically constrained, phylogenetically plausible scenarios for the evolution of music, in a general context of hominin evolution. I identify areas of research where ethnomusicology can weigh in on debates concerning the evolutionary career of music, including, importantly, data for phylogenetic modelling and analysis.
Keywords Evolution of music
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,257
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Musical Pluralism and the Science of Music.Adrian Currie & Anton Killin - 2016 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 6 (1):9-30.
Musicing, Materiality, and the Emotional Niche.Joel Krueger - 2015 - Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 14 (3):43-62.
Music and Technology. Virtuality and Metadesign : Sound Art in the Age of Connectivity.Laura Ahonen - 2006 - In Erkki Pekkilä, David Neumeyer & Richard Littlefield (eds.), Music, Meaning and Media. University of Helsinki.


Added to PP index

Total views
30 ( #379,020 of 2,499,869 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #417,749 of 2,499,869 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes