The Human Faculty for Music: What's special about it?
Abstract (short version)
This thesis presents a model of a narrow faculty for music - qualities that are at once universally present and operational in music across cultures whilst also being specific to our species and to the domain of music. The comparative approach taken focuses on core psychological and physiological capabilities that root and enable appropriate engagement with music rather than on their observable physical correlates. Configurations of musical pulse; musical tone; and musical motivation are described as providing a sustained attentional structure for managing personal experience and interpersonal interaction and as offering a continually renewing phenomenological link between the immediate past, the perceptual present and future expectation. Constituent parts of the narrow faculty for music are considered most fundamentally as a potentiating, quasi-architectural framework in which our most central affective and socio-intentional drives are afforded extended time, stability, and a degree of abstraction, intensity, focus and meaning. The author contends, therefore, that music's defining characteristics, specific functionalities and/or situated efficacies are not demarcated in broadly termed “musical” qualities such as melodic contour or rhythm or in those surprisingly elusive “objective facts” of musical structure. Rather they are solely the attentional/motivational frameworks which root our faculty to make and make sense of music. Our generic capacities for culture and the manifold uses of action, gesture, and sound to express and induce emotion; to regulate affective states; to create or reflect meaning; to signify; to ritualize; coordinate; communicate; interrelate; embody; entrain; and/or intentionalize, none of these is assessed as being intrinsically unique to music performance. Music is, instead, viewed as an ordered expression of human experience, behaviour, interaction, and vitality, all shaped, shared, given significance, and/or transformed in time. The relevance of this model to topical debates on music and evolution is discussed and the author contends that the perspective offered affords significant implications for our understanding of why music is evidently and remarkably effective in certain settings and in the pursuit of certain social, individual, and therapeutic goals.