The Natural History of Music

Music is a human universal, but most other animals can’t even keep a simple beat. Why? This course examines the evolutionary backstory of our species’ unique musical abilities, particularly our ability to perceive and keep in time to auditory rhythms. Examining insights from comparative biology, cognitive science, and philosophy, we’ll consider what functions — if any — music plays in human culture and psychology, and we’ll learn to apply basic evolutionary reasoning to core questions of human nature. Explore the natural foundations of humanity’s “universal language.”


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