Bernd Brabec de Mori – Inquiring into the Roles of Listening in the Prehistory of Song and Speech

16 June 2020, 4 pm (CET)  
Online seminar

WHO: Bernd Brabec de Mori (Afil. Centre for Systematic Musicology, University of Graz, Austria)

One distinctive faculty of human modernity is the ability of differentiated utterances that we call today speech or song (or more generally, language and music). It is still under debate whether language and music are the sole achievement of homo sapiens or other hominins were capable of this distinction too. Likewise it is unclear how the bifurcation of these forms of utterance happened, why it was sustainable (there is no contemporary human community without language or music), and what this would mean for our understanding of contemporary speech and song. In this talk, I argue that a specific “posture of listening” I call “enchanted listening” is a prerequisite for the cognitive ability of “thinking-at-a-distance”, that is, abstract reasoning, and with it the abilities of transcendental imagination (proto-religion) on the one hand, and fixed-distance rhythm and pitch utterance (proto-music) on the other. This accounts for the paramount importance of proto-musical utterance in early human modernity, addressing the sustainability question, and also for the almost universal interconnectedness of music with rituals (in its broadest sense).