The evolution of music: The development of sonic representation and meaning

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores how the representation of music has developed within human cultures. It begins by discussing the soundscapes of prehistoric landscapes, in order to better understand the acoustic ecologies of the past. This is followed by investigating the role of music within societies, addressing how music interacts with work, ritual, and trance. Discussion of lithophones, drums, and dancing is followed by addressing bone pipes, the earliest musical instrument archaeologists found, exploring music as technology for socialization and community. Bronze horns in Europe such as the Carnyx and Greek and Roman music provide evidence of complex technological processes applied to music making, showing an increasing sophistication in the use of technology to create sonic meanings. The paper concludes that the representation of meaning in sound through an aural symbolic language, combines semiotics and embodied knowledge in complex networks of understanding that play a significant role in human cultures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution
EditorsNathalie Gontier, Andy Lock, Chris Sinha
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191851759
ISBN (Print)9780198813781
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

Publication series

NameOxford Library of Psychology
PublisherOxford University Press


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