Music: Listening to a Human Mind

Found on the RandomChaos blog, a pointer to a Boston Globe article responding to an article in the July issue of Nature Neuroscience
From the Globe Article:

Neither idea is right, according to David Schwartz and colleagues. Human musical preferences are fundamentally shaped not by elegant algorithms or ratios but by the messy sounds of real life, and of speech in particular — which in turn is shaped by our evolutionary heritage. Says Schwartz, “The explanation of music, like the explanation of any product of the mind, must be rooted in biology, not in numbers per se.”

I don’t really understand why they see a disconnect between biology and numbers, or “elegant algorithms” and “the messy sounds of real life.”
This seems like a good opportunity to share a quote drawn from William Calvin’s “How Brains Think

“Music is the effort we make to explain to ourselves how our brains work. We listen to Bach transfixed because this is listening to a human mind.” (quoted on p. 108)

- Lewis Thomas, The Medusa and the Snail, 1979

Calvin makes some interesting analogies between neural activity and music which seem really promising; unfortunately, I returned the book to the library so I can’t dig up any more cites. It’s a good read if you’re into that kind of thing, though.

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