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The music-archaeology of the Palaeolithic within its cultural setting.

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Scothern, Paula Marie Theresa 


A consideration of the music-archaeological evidence of the Upper Palaeolithic from Aurignacian onwards, set within the cultural and anatomical context of its creators: examining its evolutionary relationship with the events of the Mousterian and with successive musical-cultural behaviour during the Mesolithic and Neolithic of Europe. The work builds upon study undertaken as an undergraduate and M.Mus. student, and is the culmination of four years' research at Cambridge. The work is designed to be both a theoretical and practical approach, the product of a thorough documentary survey of literature from several disciplines, contacts with major European institutions, fieldwork abroad and the replication of selected Palaeolithic sound-producers. The first section, devoted to the origins of musical behaviour, explores the relationship between conceptualisation, behaviour and sound alongside major evolutionary developments such as speech, locomotion, manual skills and other forms of non-verbal communication. The Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition is presented as the scenario for the appearance of the sound-producer, and Section 2 outlines the cultural and sociological factors which distinguish Mousterian and Upper Palaeolithic populations. The discovery of the sound-producing mechanism is s.t:en as an outgrowth of bone-working traditions established during the Aurignacian, as a reflection of subsistence strategies adopted by Palaeolithic groups - a mechanism which was to culminate in the advanced forms of the Magdalenian. The discussion focuses upon two major collections from the French sites of Isturitz and Le Placard, and explores how the musical cultures of the Mesolithic and Neolithic may be a continuation of the Palaeolithic, or an adaptation of these traditions to new materials, environments and subsistence strategies. The development of the soundproducer during the post-glacial is considered as part of a wider process of demographic expansion throughout Scandinavia, the Far East, and the New World. The concluding chapter presents a synthesis and overview of the earlier discussion. Examining the relationship between the sound-producer and vocal forms of musical behaviour, it looks more closely at the distinction between technological and conceptual definitions of "music". In attempting to place prehistoric musical behaviour in evolutionary and cultural perspective, it stresses the need to re-examine our own definitions, terminologies and concepts; and ultimately arrives at the question: is it possible to talk of a "concept of music" in prehistory?


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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge