Wednesday, April 25, 2012

e.o.wilson; what is art?

HarvardMagazine | The utilitarian theory of cave art, that the paintings and scratchings depict ordinary life, is almost certainly partly correct, but not entirely so. Few experts have taken into account that there also occurred, in another wholly different domain, the origin and use of music. This event provides independent evidence that at least some of the paintings and sculptures did have a magical content in the lives of the cave dwellers. A few writers have argued that music had no Darwinian significance, that it sprang from language as a pleasant “auditory cheesecake,” as one author once put it. It is true that scant evidence exists of the content of the music itself—just as, remarkably, we have no score and therefore no record of Greek and Roman music, only the instruments. But musical instruments also existed from an early period of the creative explosion. “Flutes,” technically better classified as pipes, fashioned from bird bones, have been found that date to 30,000 years or more before the present. At Isturitz in France and other localities some 225 reputed pipes have been so classified, some of which are of certain authenticity. The best among them have finger holes set in an oblique alignment and rotated clockwise to a degree seemingly meant to line up with the fingers of a human hand. The holes are also beveled in a way that allows the tips of the fingers to be sealed against them. A modern flutist, Graeme Lawson, has played a replica made from one of them, albeit of course without a Paleolithic score in hand.

Other artifacts have been found that can plausibly be interpreted as musical instruments. They include thin flint blades that, when hung together and struck, produce pleasant sounds like those from wind chimes. Further, although perhaps just a coincidence, the sections of walls on which cave paintings were made tend to emit arresting echoes of sound in their vicinity.

Was music Darwinian? Did it have survival value for the Paleolithic tribes that practiced it? Examining the customs of contemporary hunter-gatherer cultures from around the world, one can hardly come to any other conclusion. Songs, usually accompanied by dances, are all but universal. And because Australian aboriginals have been isolated since the arrival of their forebears about 45,000 years ago, and their songs and dances are similar in genre to those of other hunter-gatherer cultures, it is reasonable to suppose that they resemble the ones practiced by their Paleolithic ancestors.


John Kurman said...

"Auditory cheesecake". Pinker. Why the fuck anyone believes his made-up bullshit is beyond me. Clearly, Pinker has never jammed. If he did, he would understand it's a hallucinatory experience, which, bottom line, is where 99% of consciousness is.

CNu said...

I found this whole convoluted and hypergraphic article signifying ABSOLUTELY NOTHING  to be a complete disgrace. Pinker needs to be in perpetual hot golden shower mode, and my man E.O. has set himself back decades and is sorely in need of being shot with hot pee for this amateurish fustercluckery.

Uglyblackjohn said...

JK - "jammed" as a band jams? If so, cannot the same hallucinatory experience be had while playing sports (when one is playing 'in the zone'), while high or just by a lack of sleep?

John Kurman said...

Yes, band jamming, and absolutely playing sports. I've experienced it many times. Or dancing. Or drawing. (Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow'). And endurance running is the closest thing I'll ever get to meditation.