Music is Dancing the Silence

Most of us see music as requisite before we start dancing. Whether we listen with our jazzy hips, shuffle and bob to get into our groove, or jump and scream when the beat drops, dancing seems to be a direct result of music.

Our mental layout seems to be Music (+ Lights + Drugs) –> Dance

However, music is a distinctly human invention that makes use of many higher order cognitive functions, such as harmony, melody, and rhythm. It seems that dance, a natural extension of movement, is a much more fundamental drive. Historically, it is likely that dance led to the invention of music.

We should instead consider Dance –> Music
It started as an emotional or sexual response, simple rhythmic movements or pulsing. The fluid but rhythmic movements of running are another natural starting point.  This translates into stomping and thumping. As we got more excited, we would reflexively make guttural or high pitched sounds. This led to simple monorhythmic melodies. Then we would start clapping, creating more complex rhythms. Seeing the novelty of this new clapping movement, other members of the tribe join in, creating even more variety. As more and more spontaneous vocal outbursts occur, they eventually are harnessed to consciously form a crude melody. The rest, as they say, is history.

In truth, dancing and music are probably intertwined in a complex feedback loop, something like Dance  <–> Music. However it seems that for our ancestors, dance was more fundamental and spontaneous. So don’t be afraid to dance in the silence! You might hear something unexpected.



Picture is “Tribal Dance” by WhiteIcePanther from Deviant Art



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