Pinning down a definition of music is harder than it sounds.
A song composed by a human easily fits into the category of music. But what about a song composed by a bird? Or the rumble of a freight train?
Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist at Harvard, and he’s written best-selling books about evolutionary psychology and language. He says music is tied to language.
“Music has a set of rhythms within rhythms that can align uncannily with those of speech,” Pinker says.
There’s an ongoing debate about whether music is “adaptive” — whether it serves a direct evolutionary purpose. Steven Pinker doesn’t think it does.
He’s argued that music is a happy byproduct of some other evolutionary adaptation. That idea stirred up some controversy when he first wrote about it in the 1990s, and it still does.
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