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Evolution of Emotional CommunicationFrom Sounds in Nonhuman Mammals to Speech and Music in Man$
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Eckart Altenmüller, Sabine Schmidt, and Elke Zimmermann

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199583560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583560.001.0001

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A contribution to the evolutionary basis of music: Lessons from the chill response

A contribution to the evolutionary basis of music: Lessons from the chill response

Chapter:
(p.313) Chapter 19 A contribution to the evolutionary basis of music: Lessons from the chill response
Source:
Evolution of Emotional Communication
Author(s):

Eckart Altenmüller

Reinhard Kopiez

Oliver Grewe

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199583560.003.0019

In this article, we discuss the evolutionary basis of music. We focus on the adaptational value of the chill-response to music linked to strong emotions, feelings of pleasure and nostalgia. In the first paragraphs, we briefly review the debate on whether music is an evolutionary adaptation or a more recent human invention without any adaptational value. A prominent protagonist of the former viewpoint was Charles Darwin, who proposed, already in 1870, an analogy of human music to bird-song, linking it to courtship and emerging language abilities. Later, the adaptational value of music promoting social coherence and wellbeing was emphasized. In contrast, non-adaptationists argue that music is a more recent invention of humans, comparable to the control of fire. However, according to this position, music relies on resources which are necessary for language acquisition and which have developed previously in evolution. Subsequently, we argue that emotions induced by music may also refer to different evolutionary origins. Aesthetic emotions, not necessarily accompanied by an activation of the autonomic nervous system, may have developed relatively late in human evolution potentially in the context of the invention of the first musical instruments some 35000 years ago. In contrast, strong emotions such as chill-responses to music, are linked to an activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the brain reward circuits.

Keywords:   music, evolution, chill-response, aesthetic emotions, adaptational value, auditory learning, affective signalling-system

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