Music, play and Darwin's children: Pedagogical reflections of and on the ontogeny/phylogeny relationship

Nicholas Bannan

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This article explores the relationship between ideas about the role and purpose of music introduced in the major publications of Charles Darwin, and the fields of child development, music education and pedagogy. It also considers the significant influence on Darwin's work of his own biography and family life. In the global village of 21st-century cyber-culture, music is in danger of increasing commodification, whereby powerful commercial forces shape the assumption that music is a product to be consumed, rather than a process in which to participate. Speculation about the role of music in the evolution of culture (Bannan, 2003; Merker, 2000; Mithen, 2005; Morley, 2002; Wallin, 1991) supports the view that the capacity for music was expressed early in the genetic inheritance that gave rise to the species Homo; and that its universality within each individual in every culture is a consequence of its usefulness in behavior and inter-generational transmission that exploit its potential. Given the manner in which modern human societies conduct themselves, a robust evolutionary account of the role of music has significant implications for the way we educate our young, both informally in the home and in the more formal setting of school. This relationship between Darwin's published theories and the role of musical play in the upbringing of children was evident in his and his wife Emma's approach to parenting in the family home at Down House where he wrote his major works. © The Author(s) 2013.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-118
JournalInternational Journal of Music Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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