Musicality and the human capacity for culture


This paper proposes that the human capacity for musicality is integral to the human capacity for culture, and that the key feature of music that motivates its efficacy is its indeterminacy of meaning, or floating intentionality. It suggests that, from an evolutionary perspective, a focus on music's commonalities of function (rather than of structure) across cultures provides an appropriate framework for theorising the roles and the operational features of music's indeterminacy of meaning. A three-dimension account of meaning in music is presented in which biologically generic, humanly specific, and culturally enactive dimensions of the experience of music are delineated, with summary examples of the application of the theory to musical usages in different cultures. It is noted that the dimensions outlined in the theory may be operational at different semiotic levels, and it is concluded that music became part of the repertoire of modern human behaviour as an exaptive consequence of processes of progressive altricialisation in the hominin lineage. © 2008 by ESCOM European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music.