PERFORMING ARTS

The Musical Human: A History of Life on Earth

Bloomsbury. Apr. 2021. 656p. ISBN 9781635576245. $35. MUSIC
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Whether Spitzer (Metaphor and Musical Thought) is meditating on the utility of metaphor in capturing music’s intrinsic abstraction or discussing emotion theory across a sweep of genres, his writing is broad, deep, and layered. Here, he braids together metaphor and emotion into a sprawling, philosophical musing on the development of Homo musicus, or how music began. The book opens with a provocative premise: We are all born with musical skill but culture has turned us against our nature and valued passive listening over the act of creation. Spitzer supports this argument in reverse chronological order, moving from the 21st century back to a speculative musical prehistory. Weaving through history, philosophy, archaeology, and biology, he demonstrates how music was not serendipitously invented by human beings but rather is innate to this world.
VERDICT With humorous and concise prose, Spitzer makes a convincing case for the irreducible musical properties of human beings.

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