FYS Section A16. In Search of the Muse: Why Do We Make Music?
In Greek mythology, the Muses are goddesses who spark the imagination, each ruling a particular area of art, literature, or science. Collectively, these Muses are also the keepers of song, giving their name to our modern word “music.” But where does music really come from?
In this inter-disciplinary course, we’ll examine the varied roles of music in cultures across the globe, both modern and historic, in search of common features that might provide insights into the origins of music. We’ll consider neurological bases of music in humans and animals, and the possibility that musical competencies are hard-wired into our bodies. We’ll look to developmental psychology and anthropology for evidence of how music is “nurtured” by a variety of cultural influences. The physics of sound will be examined as it relates to the development of tonal music. Philosophers of music from Plato through John Cage will inform the ongoing discussion. Drawing on these divergent disciplines, students will learn to research and critique competing theories, organize and synthesize their findings into a comprehensive philosophy of music and its origins, and offer their own informed descriptions of the “Muse” that sparks their own musical creativity and expression.
Associate Professor of Music and Choral Director, Music Department Chair