myth;within archaeological circles it is recognized thatit is
the product ofintentional human action,but ithas acquired an afterlife ofits own outside these circles(in part perhaps because ofits co-optation as a nationalsymbol,a silver ‘replica’was presented to the last pope).In any case,Justus and Hutsler err in assigning thisobject to a human context;it was found in a Mousterian(Neandertal)context,and hence,were it to be a musicalartifact it would be not only the oldest known but theproduct ofaquite different species ofhominin,indi-cating a long and complex provenance for musicality inthe hominin lineage.McDermott and Hauser also cite the ‘Neandertal flute’but err in a different direction in suggesting that the“earliest well-preserved musical instruments”are fromNeolithic China,dating to between 7000 and 5700 BC.This might suggest a late emergence ofmusic,at least inthe form ofinstrumental music.In fact,the oldest well-preserved musical instrument,a bone pipe found inGeissenklösterle in southern Germany (Hahn & Münzel,1995),is considerably older than this,dating to around37000 BP (Before the Present).This date is around thetime that modern humans arrived in Europe;it suggeststhat humans brought music with them out ofAfricaand that music was ofconsiderable importance in theirlives;the pipe is a remarkably sophisticated artifact (seeD’Errico et al.,2003) and would have required consid-erable time and effort in its manufacture,all this is anew and hostile—survival-threatening—environment).However,perhaps the most significant weakness inboth papers is their lack ofspecificity in their use of the term
.Neither sees it as necessary to define theterm explicitly;indeed,McDermott and Hauser state(p.30),“In our view a definition ofmusic is not particu-larly important at this stage as long as it is approximately clear what we refer to with the term.”Unfortunately,inpapers that are concerned with exploring the behavioral,neural and ethological roots ofmusic,some operationaldefinition ofthe term is necessary,not least in ordertodelineate the relationships between music and otherdomains ofhuman (and animal) behavior.McDermottand Hauser are more explicit than are Justus and Hutslerabout the provisional nature oftheir conclusions;never-theless,the lack ofan explicit definition,and the partialnature ofthe implicit definitions that both rely on,limitthe powers oftheir arguments.In essence,both papers treat music in terms ofonly two ofthe three aspects ofmusic that Merriam (1964)proposes are required to characterize it.He suggeststhat ‘music’can best be explored in terms ofa tripartitemodel that embraces music as
(what might con-ventionally be thought ofas constituting music from aWestern perspective),as
(which embraces themusical—and ‘nonmusical’—acts ofmusicians,and theactivities in which the production ofmusic is embed-ded) and as
(how people think about music interms ofits powers and its relations to other domains of human life).Music appears in these papers as
and(in part) as
(little attention is devoted to therange ofactivities in which music may be embedded),but
is missing;there is no consideration hereofhow is music construed as functioning by thosewho are engaged in it or by the societies within whichit manifests itself.From the perspective ofthe concernsofthese papers,this means that a critical questionthatis central to any consideration ofmusic in evolution-ary terms remains unasked:can any general and uni-versally applicable theories ofmusical functionality beproposed? While Merriam himselfwas somewhatagnostic on this point,explicit proposals have comefrom other ethnomusicologists (see Blacking,1969,1976,1995).Blacking’s views certainly contradict some ofthoseexpressed here,as,for instance,McDermott andHauser’sclaim (p.39) that because music lacks referen-tial precision,being fundamentally expressive ofemo-tion,it “is commonly produced and listened to forenjoyment rather than for communicative purposes.”While enjoyment is certainly one ofits main purposes,music generally does other jobs as well;for instance,forBlacking,it is a medium that models social structuresand facilitates the acquisition ofsocial competence by young people (see Blacking,1967).Music can legiti-mately be regarded as part ofthe same human commu-nicative toolkit as language when viewed from theperspective ofpragmatics;its semantic indeterminacy,together with its capacities to entrain,provide a potentmedium for human interaction which may,over an evo-lutionarytimescale,have fulfilled the types offunctionsat the species level that Blacking identifies at the level of individual societies (see Cross,2005,in press-a,inpress-b).Irrespective ofthe validity ofsuch hypotheses,consideration ofmusic as a generic behavioral capacity does require that music be characterized as rigorously and fully as possible.Only then does it seem feasible toattempt both to understand how music relates to otheraspects ofhuman life and to formulate proposals aboutthe evolutionary roots ofhuman musicality.
Address correspondence to:
Ian Cross,Centre for Music &Science,Faculty ofMusic,University ofCambridge,WestRoad,Cambridge CB3 9DP,UK.