Susan Juhl wrote:
> Re: PBS "Music Instinct: Science and Song" June 24 2009
> Can someone parse it, please?
> There are so many theories about the origin of music -- anyone else
> have an idea?
> A very short presentation in the show involved the premise that languag=
> influences music.
> Debussy's music reflects the French language.
> Elgar's music reflects the English language.
> Is this a subject to investigate?
It was until 15 minutes ago. In those 15 minutes I carried out the
investigation and clearly showed that the hypothesis is not correct.
Let me explain. I thought of Janacek, whose music is said to reflect
the speech structures of the Czech language. (Received wisdom. I do
not know Czech.) But then I thought of Dvorak, likewise Czech. His music
seems not very different in idiom from other late 19th century composers,
notably Brahms- which is not to say that the two composers sound alike
- just that they speak the same language. So Janacek's approach is very
individualistic, and not simply part of his Czech heritage.
As to the origin of music, it is interesting that music is rather old -
simple flute-like instruments have been found in Europe which are several
tens of thousand years old. We humans have been living in settlements
for only about ten thousand years.
It is not ridiculous to speculate that the practice of music had an
effect on human brain structure. Ideas of neuroplasticity are now
well established, not only in infants,but also in adults. The things
we do molds our brains to some extent. A fascinating discussion of
neuroplasticity (with no discussion of its relation to music) may be
found in Norman Doidge. "The Brain That Changes Itself" - available
as a Penguin paperback.
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