Searching for the Origins of Musicality

The ability to produce and appreciate music is a human universal. But do you ever ponder about how music came about?

Organised by Studium Generale

Wed 27 March 2019 20:00 to 22:00

Venue Impulse, building number 115

Lecture series ‘How Music Works’

Music is probably an everyday phenomenon in your life. But do you ever think about the why and how of music? What drove the evolution of music? And how does it affect us humans, both as individuals and as society? Explore what is known about the mechanisms of music in this programme organized in collaboration with WSKOV (Wageningen Student Choir and Orchestra Association), and enjoy live music by WSKOV members.

Searching for the Origins of Musicality

Do you know anyone who doesn’t enjoy (a certain type of) music? The ability to produce and appreciate music is a human universal. But do you ever ponder about how music came about? Are humans the only musical animals? What was the driving force for the evolution of music? And do animals hear what we hear when listening to music? Learn why music is something different than musicality, but does require musicality. Delve into the ongoing exploration of the evolutionary origins of musicality, and discover what studies of (other) animals have revealed about what we share and don’t share with them.

About Carel ten Cate

Carel ten Cate.jpg

Carel ten Cate is Professor of Animal Behaviour at the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) at Leiden University, and also affiliated with the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC). His research focuses on animal communication and cognition. He is particularly interested in the cognitive mechanisms involved in the learning and processing of vocal and visual signals in species ranging from birds and fish to humans. This includes comparative research on auditory perception and auditory pattern learning in animals (in particular birds) and humans. Many of his research projects involve collaboration with linguists, psychologists and others and are at the interface of biology, cognitive science, psychology and linguistics. They aim at providing insights in the biological origins and mechanisms of human linguistic rule learning, language development, speech perception, musicality and the neural bases of these processes.
One of ten Cate’s research projects concerns the musical abilities of birds. Rhythm perception, the perceptual grouping of different notes as belonging together, and melody recognition are universal features of human musicality and form the basis for our appreciation and production of music. But are these traits unique to humans, and where do they come from? By comparative studies on various aspects of musicality, this research aims to find out what type of patterns birds can detect in musical stimuli and how this relates to human perception of such stimuli. This work is done in collaboration with Prof. dr. Henkjan Honing (University of Amsterdam).