Music and in particular singing is deeply rooted in human biology and is critical for the cognitive development of children. It is highly important for mental health of humans (cp. „Chanting“). John Blacking, the music ethnologist, describes the nonverbal prelinguistic musical modus of thinking and acting in human evolution. He sees singing as the primary human vocalization.
Rousseau identified the discrete tones as main criterion for differentiating between singing and speakin: singing means tones being sustained based on a vowel with a fixed frequency for a certain time. Two tones mean a commensurable interval for singing. Speech does not mean in general to maintain pitches as long as necessary to identify them as a musical tone.
The biolinguist Tecumseh Fitch submits material which proofs Darwin’s hypothesis of the primacy of prosodic singing, he calls a prosodic speech the archetype of singing and speaking.
Singing and speaking both focus on the vocal channel and the auditory channel, both, singing and speaking have a complex learnable structure in common, being transferred culturally. According to Fitch, singing is the ancestral music and by that a fossil behavior. The relevance of singing – in the broadest sense – dwindled as a selection criteria, says Fitch.
Apparently inefficient actions, on the other hand, could be used meaningfully, although dispersing efforts, to signal power to an appetent mating partner, called the “handicap principle”, a theory originally proposed by the biologist Amotz Zahavi, 1975 . The classical examples are the peacocks spreading their tail. The signal transmitter waists its power, but demonstrates potency.
A certain analogy could be given for the human canto. Nature is lavish. Refer to Oscar Wilde: Surround me with luxury, then I can do without the necessary. Is the vocalist a squanderer?
Considering music and singing with respect to aesthetics, like the other arts, architecture, painting, poetry, or sculpturing, as “making special” (Dissanayake), utilitarian considerations could be seen from another perspective: singing makes fun and pleases “the soul” and by that has an aesthetic dimension which impacts mankind very beneficial. Ethologically important are the universals of music identified throughout the whole world and throughout human phylogen.
An area for further investigation is todays Cyber World with regard to music and singing. Is there a Second Life Art in terms of music? How does globalization and simultaneity of art with regard to the human behavior? What mean the findings of Arturo Escobar http://anthropology.unc.edu/person/arturo-escobar/ with regard to music and singing?