Where did music come from? This is perhaps one of the most intriguing questions in the whole field of music study. It had to start somewhere, but where? Perhaps you have never thought about it. In this post I will present a couple of theories, but I leave the decision to you.

The theories on the origins of music depend greatly on what worldview you are coming from. For example, someone who believes in a god would no doubt point to their god as the source. An atheist, on the other hand, would not be able to accept that. They would choose to believe that music appeared at a certain stage in our evolutionary history. To be fair to both parties, I would like to present a theory from both belief systems.

The Atheistic View: Progeny are the Key

In The Selfish Gene, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes about how natural selection does not simply occur on the organism level, but on the genetic level. If an organism goes extinct, so do all the genes that it contains that are not found in other organisms. We must pass on or genes, or die without doing so, a most undesirable outcome.

The first tool as depicted in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey

Wild animals have three things in general that they do. Survive, (so that they can mate and pass on their genes), mate and raise their young (to make sure the genes are passed on), and sleep (which could be lumped in with survive). Imagine that an animal got to the point where it no longer had to spend all of it’s time doing those three things. Kind of like in the film 2001. One of the apes picks up bone and, for the first time, uses it as a tool. No longer do we have to do everything with our own hands.

So what fills the void? This is perhaps where music (and art in general) comes into play. Now that we have spare time, we can use it for our own pursuits. This can eventually become incorporated into other things. Darwin believed that, at some point in time, one of the major factors in females choosing a mate was how musical they were.  This is a rather intriguing theory.

The Religious View: God Did It

In C.S. Lewis’ The Magicians Nephew, Aslan, who is allegorically similar to Jesus (for many reasons), sings the world of Narnia into existence. This is quite a wonderful picture to think about. Perhaps it is not too far off. To continue on with the Judeo-Christian God (as I am most familiar with this one), it is conceivable that music is a part of us because it is a part of Him.

Genesis teaches that God made man in his own image. If God is musical, then it makes sense that man, the only being he created in his image (according to the Bible) is musical too. Although I know very little about the belief systems of other religions, I cannot speak for them. Although it does seem conceivable that this could work with other religions.
So, in conclusion, we don’t really know. We can only guess. Did we figure music out for ourselves? Or was it given to us by something else?

What about you? Do you have a theory on where music came from? Would you like to tell me what you think of the theories I presented here? I would love to here about it. Why don’t you leave me a comment below?

Categories: Music Basics