Why Music Sounds the Way It Does. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2018

For now, much of this webpage is devoted to our research in progress, Environment Matters:  Three Habitats of Song and Music. Briefly, my co-author, Paul Shore, and I are exploring a thesis: the origin of human song is in the habitats which we occupy--outdoors, built and electronic. Our approach roots human song in our physical environments yet acknowledges that human music is characterized by variation and recursivity.

Following a rather philosophical introduction we explore our idea with examples from biology (the human ability for mimicry); acoustics (Notre-Dame-de-Paris fosters an international polyphony); history (Shore’s captivating historical quips about indoor music); and ethnography (Whidden’s work among Aboriginal singers).  Finally, in Habitat Three, the creation of music entirely from digital information such as that of composer Yasunao Tone lends credence to our thesis that we use the sounds around us to make music and leads to a wealth of inquiries related to environmental change: what sort of songs can and will we have and what will their uses be?  Indeed, if we understand that music is embedded in our sound environment we can more fully explore the function of music.  How important is music to human identity, to feelings of health, both mental and physical?

For Electronic Habitat in Environment Matters, view Sylvian, by Luis Ramirez, using MIDI information, digital synthesizers, and other digital effects or filters as the basis for this composition.