What else do we say when we say "music evolves?"

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6 Scopus citations


Whether speaking of musical "ancestors," "development," "adaptation," or "survival," music scholars implicitly draw connections between the change in biological and musical forms over time. These connections do not amount to rigorous applications of evolutionary theory. Instead, they function as metaphors used creatively to account for musical change. I see two broad systems of evolution metaphors, which I call "progressive " and "situated" evolution. Progressive evolution (informed by metaphors of development and linear motion) sees musical forms gradually improving over time. Situated evolution (informed by metaphors of fitting into place) sees musical forms adapting to dynamic local conditions. Each metaphorical system carries entailments about the future, value, and proper place of music. I argue that evolution metaphors, while sometimes useful, carry political implications that can easily be made explicit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
JournalWorld of Music
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006


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