Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/11

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



NOVEMBER, 1890.




THE ORIGIN OF MUSIC.

By HERBERT SPENCER.

[In preparing a final edition of my Essays — Scientific, Political, and Speculative — I have seized the occasion for adding a postscript to the essay on The Origin and Function of Music. As, when embodied along with other matter in its permanent form, this postscript will be seen by comparatively few, it has seemed desirable to give it a wider diffusion by publishing it separately.]

AN opponent, or partial opponent, of high authority, whose views were published some fourteen years after the above essay, must here be answered: I mean Mr. Darwin. Diligent and careful as an observer beyond naturalists in general, and still more beyond those who are untrained in research, his judgment on a question which must be decided by induction is one to be received with great respect. I think, however, examination will show that in this instance Mr. Darwin's observations are inadequate, and his reasonings upon them inconclusive. Swayed by his doctrine of sexual selection, he has leaned toward the view that music had its origin in the expression of amatory feeling, and has been led to overestimate such evidence as he thinks favors that view, while ignoring the difficulties in its way, and the large amount of evidence supporting another view. Before considering the special reasons for dissenting from his hypothesis, let us look at the most general reasons.

The interpretation of music which Mr. Darwin gives, agrees with my own in supposing music to be developed from vocal noises; but differs in supposing a particular class of vocal noises to have originated it — the amatory class. I have aimed to show that music has its germs in the sounds which the voice emits under excitement, and eventually gains this or that character