Music, Memory, and Memes in the Light of Calvinian Neuroscience

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This article explores the interface between evolutionary thought, cognitive science, and music theory. It focuses on how patterns hypothesized to function as memes in music are encoded neurobiologically, using ideas developed by the American theoretical neurophysiologist William Calvin. After recapitulating the precepts and predictions of Universal Darwinism and meme theory as to what might constitute a meme in music, I outline current understanding of the psychology of musical memory before summarizing Calvin’s general Darwinian-neurobiological perspective on information storage and recall. Then I relate memetics and psychology/neurobiology by hypothesizing how certain types of musical memes might be implemented by Calvinian mechanisms. I conclude by considering neural network models of memory, one system developed by Gjerdingen aligning broadly with certain aspects of Calvinian theory.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalMusic Theory Online
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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