The question of why humans, across cultures and time, engage with music so readily and passionately has perplexed scholars and researchers from multiple fields, given the lack of clear evolutionary benefits conferred by such activities. Recently, several authors at the crossroads of musicology and cognitive science presented compelling, cross-disciplinary evidence that the evolutionary origins of musicality stem primarily from its ability to foster social bonding. One prominent avenue by which music can promote bonding is by aligning the bodily and mental states of those engaged in the same experience, resulting in a group feeling as if they have a shared identity. Playing music together naturally synchronizes our movements and listening to music together can naturally synchronize our emotional states. This synchronization can occur in the music players themselves, such as the members of a jazz band feeding off each other’s rhythm and tempo. And it can occur in the collective way in which an audience responds emotionally to the music -- even when the listeners are online and potentially miles apart. Throughout this seminar, we will examine how music can be a vessel for who we are, and the ways in which this expression brings us together.
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Music, Identity, and Social Bonding: Moving beyond the Lab