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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Biomusicology, and three biological paradoxes about music

Steven Brown (2003)

Biomusicology, and three biological paradoxes about music

Bulletin of Psychology and the Arts, 4(1):15-17.

Biomusicology is a new scientific discipline whose subject matter is the evolutionary origins, brain mechanisms, and universal cultural properties of music and musical behavior. It is a synthetic discipline that sits at the interface between science and art, and between biology and culture. The term biomusicology was coined by Nils Wallin in the title of his 1991 book Biomusicology: Neurophysio logical, Neuropsychological and Evolutionary Perspectives on the Origins and Purposes of Music. Although there had been more than a century of research into the evolutionary origins, brain mechanisms, and universal cultural properties of music before 1991, Biomusicology was the birth of a new approach to music. In it, Wallin outlined a nelrrobiological theory ofmusic based on the properties of the central and peripheral auditory systems, and most especially on their interaction with the attentional and reward systems of the brain that mediate behaviors important fbr survival. A central focus of Wallin's discussion was lateralization of function in the brain and the importance of this phenomenon to the perception of musical sound patterns. In discussing the evolutionary origins of music, Wallin capitalized on his upbringing in the Jamtland region of Sweden by highlighting the relevance of ancient animal-herding calls - and most especially the kolning - to the origins of musical communication.

biomusicology, evolution