Gary Tomlinson: February 5, 2015

Gary Tomlinson

Gary Tomlinson

Yale University

A Million Years of Music: 

The Emergence of Human Modernity

February 5, 2015, 3:30 PM

Room 1439, Schoenberg Music Building


What is the origin of music? In this talk Gary Tomlinson draws from the areas of archaeology, cognitive science, paleolinguistics, and evolutionary theory to outline a new narrative for the emergence of human music, revising in the process our ideas of the development of modern human culture all told. Starting at a period long before Homo sapiens or music existed, Tomlinson describes the incremental mechanisms that changed the communication and society of pre-human species and laid the foundation for musical behaviors in more recent times.  His model of biocultural coevolution allows him to account for the coalescing of these attainments in modern human behaviors, and in doing so it challenges and enriches current models of our evolution.


Gary Tomlinson is a musicologist and cultural theorist known for his interdisciplinary breadth. He is the John Hay Whitney Professor of Music and the Humanities, as well as Director of the Whitney Humanities Center, at Yale University. His teaching, lecturing, and scholarship have ranged across a diverse set of interests, including the history of opera, early-modern European musical thought and practice, the musical cultures of indigenous American societies, jazz and popular music, and the philosophy of history and critical theory. His latest project concerns the evolutionary emergence of human musical capacities; his Wort Lectures at the University of Cambridge in 2009, outlining this project, were entitled “1,000,000 Years of Music.”

Tomlinson’s books include Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance; Music in Renaissance Magic; Metaphysical Song: An Essay on Opera; The Singing of the New World: Indigenous Voice in the Era of European Contact; and Music and Historical Critique. He is the co-author, with Joseph Kerman, of the music appreciation textbook Listen, now in its sixth edition.

Tomlinson has garnered prizes from the American Musicological Society, ASCAP, the Modern Language Association, and the British Academy. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur “genius” award.


This lecture is funded by the UCLA Campus Programs Committee

of the Program Activities Board.


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