The emotional antecedents to the evolution of music and language
Panksepp, J. (2009). The emotional antecedents to the evolution of music and language. Musicae Scientiae, Special issue 2009-2010, 229-259.
The emotional power of music may have strong linkages to the evolution of basic motor and emotional systems of the brain. Most movements have distinct rhythms and basic emotions are characterised by distinct affective sounds in all mammalian species, and these sounds may have been critically important pre-adaptations for the emergence of the melodic stream of music in humans. If so, the social emotions (playful joy, sadness, maternal care, sexual lust, and territorial/dominance imperatives) surely had more influence than the non-social, self-preservative emotions such as anger and fear, providing a substrate for harmony and discord. For instance, our capacity for separation-distress (substrate for primary-process sadness) may prepare the brain for chill-thrill reaction to aesthetic renditions of grief, providing one robust link to social-biologic foundations of music. Emotion mediating subcortical regions are robustly aroused in humans listening to especially moving musical selections such as those that provoke chills. Indeed, it is possible that the communicative intent integral to social emotional vocalizations, and gradual utilization and musical reutilization of such communications in group-activities, prepared the way for the emergence of linguistic competence within largely general-purpose association cortex. From this perspective, there may be no music instinct nor language instinct evolutionarily programmed into the higher reaches of the neocortex our preeminent organ of cognitive intelligence that is developmentally independent of our emotional urges. The evolutionary infrastructure for music may be largely subcortical, and the emergence of emotional proto-musical communications in our species (e.g., motherese) may have set the stage not only for the eventual discovery of music but also for the emergence of propositional language.