That being said, there was absolutely no similarity back then to singing in a modern day concert hall. The reference to speech originating in song, therefore, means our comparatively monotonous spoken language and our highly developed vocal music are differentiations of primitive utterances, which had more in them of the latter than of the former. We can relate these utterances to the singing of birds and the roaring of a myriad of animals and the crooning of babies—exclamatory, not communicative.
It came forth from our ancestors’ inner craving of the individual without any thought of fellow creatures. They didn’t have the slightest idea that communicating ideas and feelings to someone else was even remotely possible.
The more you explore how long singing has been around, the deeper you’ll want to dig to discover the evolution of singing. The voice, presumed to be the original musical instrument, and the vocal production of musical tones, are so intrinsically basic to man, its origins are long lost in antiquity and predate the development of spoken language. You’re going to be surprised to discover that there is no human culture, no matter how remote or isolated, that does not sing.
Not only is singing ancient and universal, in primitive cultures it is an important function associated not so much with entertainment or frivolity as with matters vital to the individual, social group, or religion. Primitive man sings to invoke his gods with prayers and incantations; celebrate his rites of passage with chants and songs; and recount his history and heroics with ballads and epics. There are even cultures that regard singing as so incredibly potent an act that they have myths that suggest creation was sung into existence.
It is likely the earliest singing was mainly individualistic and more improvisatory, imitating the sounds of nature, but at what point it became meaningful and communicative cannot be established. No doubt, it was an important step in the creation of language. Anthropologists believe the development of a lowered larynx (important to articulate speech, as it effectively makes the flexible lower tongue the front wall of the pharynx), was a relatively recent aspect of human evolution.
As there are no bones in the human larynx, archaeological remains offer no direct physical evidence of the vocal apparatus of prehistoric man. We also lack studies that correlate vocal characteristics to body size (basic gender difference aside), and there is general belief large-bodied peoples like Slavs, tend to produce low-voiced singers, while small-bodied peoples like those in the Mediterranean, would produce more high-voiced singers. If there is any validity in this, the voice that belonged to the owner of the prehistoric jaw bone half the size of a modern jaw unearthed in 1909, at Heidelberg, Germany, may have been a remarkable discovery.
Some experts would suggest that carrying the idea of relating body size to vocalism into more recent periods, sees modern man as having grown too large to fit the armor of medieval knights. And more recently, it is suspected that, increasingly, the male alto voice type is becoming somewhat of a rarity. Tempting though it is to see a relationship between such things, we lack the means to support it factually.
In Conclusion: Based on our knowledge of the singing of present-day primitive peoples, a possible scenario of musical development in the evolution of singing would begin with simple melodic patterns based on several tones. Also, pitch matching where several persons sing in unison might emerge next, with singing in parallel motion with women or children singing with men; and call-and-answer phrases, and drone basses as subsequent steps. All of which would lead to an evolving sense of tone and scale structure giving rise to the development of such basic musical devices as melodic sequences and formulae.
I do sincerely hope that this article has given you some insight as to how long singing has been around. Thank you for dropping by.
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