Not all of Dr. Levitin’s idea have been easily accepted. He argues, for example, that music is an evolutionary adaptation: something that men developed as a way to demonstrate reproductive fitness. (Before you laugh, consider the sex lives of today’s male rock stars.) Music also helped social groups cohere. “Music has got to be useful for survival, or we would have gotten rid of it years ago,” he said.Hey, let's study the evolutionary psychology of scientists who label fields that don't interest them as "cheesecake" and who won't even look at the books of less prominent scholars who write whole chapters engaging with their theories.
But Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard known for his defense of evolutionary psychology, has publicly disparaged this idea. Dr. Pinker has called music “auditory cheesecake,” something pleasant but not evolutionarily nutritious. If it is a sexual signal for reproduction, then why, Dr. Pinker asked, does “a 60-year-old woman enjoy listening to classical music when she’s alone at home?” Dr. Levitin wrote an entire chapter refuting Dr. Pinker’s arguments; when I asked Dr. Pinker about Dr. Levitin’s book he said he hadn’t read it.
December 31, 2006
The NYT has a big article about Daniel Levitin, who studies the effect of music on the brain. Read the whole thing if you're interested in why people have such accurate memories of music that they can, for example, identify "Benny and the Jets" from just one note and how pop music is all about timbre. But I'm just going to highlight this part at the end: