Sympathy and Synchrony

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  • Title: Sympathy and Synchrony: Music's Promise for the Future Tribes of Hominina
  • Author(s): Brian Harlan
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Keywords: Evolutionary psychology and music, origins and functions of music
  • Date: November 15, 2018
  • ISBN (hbk): 978-1-86335-031-0
  • ISBN (pbk): 978-1-86335-067-9
  • ISBN (pdf): 978-1-86335-068-6
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Harlan, Brian . 2018. Sympathy and Synchrony: Music's Promise for the Future Tribes of Hominina. Champaign, IL: Common Ground Research Networks. doi:10.18848/978-1-86335-068-6/CGP.
  • Extent: 106 pages

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Music is not only universal among all existing cultures, it is found universally throughout the written record, and archaeological remains of musical activity have been found in nearly every settlement uncovered. There is even evidence to suggest that music predates our species, beginning as early as Homo ergaster. Yet, if Homo sapiens learned music from another human species, who did that species learn it from? Is it possible to trace the origins of music, or to discover why music has been with us for so long? Today from the moment we are born we are predisposed to music. In fact, reaction to auditory stimuli begins before we are born, and thus we enter the world eagerly seeking rhythmic patterns and melodic contours. Once we locate our first rhythmic pattern (within twenty minutes or so) human infants are capable not only of identifying patterns, but also of replicating those patterns. This process of matching our body with an external rhythm is known as entrainment. Human-to-human entrainment using music, furthermore, can occur both with intimate relations and with complete strangers. Musical “communication” via entrainment can also occur across cultural and geographical boundaries, across racial and ethnic groups, across gender differences, and across wide age gaps. Why should this be the case? Sympathy and Synchrony seeks to understand the role of music in our lives. Through interdisciplinary perspectives, Brian Harlan uncovers the essential function of music, and speculates about how we might use this new understanding to enrich our lives in the future.