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Erik Dahlberg

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A memetic approach to "explaining" the existance of music and why it is such an effective way of communication.

It seems to me that music is one of the most effective ways of communication that we know of, a way of transferring information to one another in some kind of "pure" way, and thus avoiding the barrier that language constitutes. But why is it so effective?

One thing that bugs me, having a musical and scientific background, is the fact that the existence of music does not seem to have any kind of scientific or even close to logical explanation. Music just "is" and the elements of music (rythm, harmony, melody) are governed by rules that almost seem to be "god-given" or "natural". From where does this almost axiomatic nature of music come?

Listening to the fascinating talks of Susan Blackmore on the creative process and Elizabeth Gilbert on memes I am wondering if music could be put into a context of memes and cultural evolution? In this perspective, musical "building blocks" or, if I may, memes of music are subject to constant mutation and recombination that form a stream of ever evolving musical expression.

This view is interesting, as it has some potential of explaining not only where music comes from, but also gives some kind of explanation to the creative process itself: we are constantly subject to millions of memes, consciously and unconsciously, and the artist, in this view, is an individual who picks up these memes, mutates them and recombines them to a piece of music.

Lastly, viewing music in a memetics context could provide some explanation to why music is such an effective means of communication. Only the successful memes can replicate, and success could for music be defined as level of communicative effectiveness.

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    Oct 27 2011: I think music arises out of two sources - Our natural rhythm and our emotions. The two are intertwined .
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    Oct 19 2011: Music can set the theme the tone the tempo, temperature....How many musical scores serve to underwrite the genius of cinematography and script of an award winning film or theatrical show? How does music touch our lives, energize or inspire us, even soothe babes to sleep? Ritual drumbeats have been also used as a tribal means of communication for centuries. Exotic dance music as preludes to seduction. a quiet timbre relaxes and heals the spirit.
    Music can express joy and sorrow and even fear that all can understand. And of course we use it to attempt to congregate like minds and thinkers to the convivial deal table; it has been rumored in a study that CEO's entrepreneurs and independent thinkers favor jazz and syncopated rhythm, impressionist type music over simple cadences. Perhaps the inventive and creative mind is geared to accept these variants more smoothly ?
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    Oct 19 2011: I think there is both. There is the "memetic" approach that explains trends and tastes in different parts of the world.
    But the fact that music is so universal cannot be due to anything but a genetic factor.

    Well, this is true of language as well, isn't it.

    But the origins of music is very interesting. A lot of people have thought that music is the invention of the consicous, sensible mind needing to express complex emotions. People place music after speech in history,
    I think this is wrong. I think music is typicall of our branch of hominoids from the start. I think we've been singing as part of courtship and bonding, probably 5 million years ago... This is what gives melody a special place in our brains, see Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia, and this explains why we react so emotionally to it.

    I think singing allowed vocal speech. Speech is some sort of special singing that specialises in creating symbols.
    So I don't think memes alone solve this babe. I think human music is like bird singing or cat purring or wolf howling.