Synch, Song, and Society

Human Nature Review, Volume 5, 2005, 66-86.

21 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2013

Date Written: June 1, 2005


A number of thinkers, including Charles Darwin, have argued that language and music as we know them were evolutionarily preceded by something that was neither one nor the other, but a bit like both. Steven Mithen is the most prominent current exponent of this idea, which he has set forth at book-length in The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body. In particular, he argues that the neanderthals were virtuosi in this superseded behavior. In this essay-review I summarize the salient point of Mithen's book, which is based on a wide ranger of literature, and add some speculations of my own. In particular I talk about interactive synchrony and shared intentionality and the emergence of group norms and symbolization.

Keywords: music, language, origins, evolution, neanderthals, Mithen, rhythm, synchrony, society

Suggested Citation

Benzon, William L., Synch, Song, and Society (June 1, 2005). Human Nature Review, Volume 5, 2005, 66-86., Available at SSRN:

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