Music Has Biological Roots in Humans
While music is often considered a product of our society and
culture, scientific findings show that many aspects of music are
part of our biological nature as humans. By studying people and
animals worldwide, researchers have found that basic musical
actions in humans are "known" and not "taught."
Through the following four categories we have clear evidence of
the relationship between music and human nature:
1) Other animals are musical.
Monkeys can follow patterns of musical pitches and determine the
fundamental pitch of a musical series.
2) Music is universal.
Across cultures and continents, people communicate with forms of
music. Perhaps the best demonstration of the universality of music
is the communication between parents and children using lullabies
and musical baby talk. This parent-child musical communication
takes place around the world.
3) Musical behaviors appear early in life.
Toddlers make up play songs and follow the beat of music. Infants
can discriminate between different pitches, remember the contour
of melodies, and comprehend rhythm.
4) The human brain is organized to process music.
The brain contains neurons (brain cells) that are specifically
sensitive to pure tone pitch, complex harmonic relationships,
rhythm, and melodic contour. When listening to a song, the right
hemisphere of the brain processes the melody while the left
hemisphere processes language. The brain treats the melody as a
separate set of "data."
Scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that humans are ready to
engage in musical activities from birth. Imagine the possible results
if parents and caregivers make an effort to sing and have musical
experiences with their young children to the same degree that they
work to develop language skills. What might happen if musical skills
were fostered in kindergarten and elementary school students with the
same rigor as other skills and abilities? After all, we are "wired"
for music.
Source: "The Music in Our Minds" by Norman M. Weinberger.
Published in Educational Leadership, Vol. 56, No. 3: November
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