The fundamental function of music
Schubert, E. (2009). The fundamental function of music. Musicae Scientiae, Special issue 2009-2010, 63-81.
This article examines some of the functions of music in human society, and argues for a restructuring of the current taxonomies, as driven by Martindale s psychobiological theory of aesthetic preference. The realignment proposed places the desire for pleasure generation at the highest point of a hierarchy of functions, the so called fundamental function, with other functions considered to be subsidiary. With this view, music can be defined as an auditory stimulus whose fundamental function is to produce pleasure in the listener (who may, of course, also be the performer). I refine this thesis by proposing a sub-personal, mechanistic level of explanation where neural displeasure centres are inhibited during these experiences, allowing the activation of rich and numerous memories and emotions that are experienced but not disliked (i.e. dissociation or suspension of disbelief) at the personal level. This idea of dissociation , the correlate of a mechanistic level of explanation, also provides a deeper, more significant and descriptive explanation of the function of music, describing the emotional, spiritual and ritualistic uses of music. This view has important implications for evolutionary psychologists seeking to determine the origin and distinctive functions of music compared to language. ...