Mozart and Evolution

Did you know that our closest primate relative — the chimpanzee — doesn’t typically live in groups larger than eighteen males due to an overabundance of chest-thumping and interpersonal tension? Ah, how far we’ve come. But how did we go from knuckle-dragging frat boy to the likes of Shakespeare, Mozart and Einstein? According to Daniel Levitin’s new book, the answer is a little more Mozart than you might expect.

“We believe that one of the roles that music played was to defuse interpersonal tension around hominids, allowing for larger living groups,” says Levitin, author of The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature. “This book is the story of the evolution of the human brain, going back to the beginning of the species and how natural selection created brains that, in turn, created music.” A smart mix of biological evolutionary science, memoir, contemporary and ancient music critique and interviews with top scientists and musicians (including Joni Mitchell and Sting), Six Songs shows how evolution works — with music as a window into evolutionary biology.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street in Boulder, Levitin will discuss and sign his new book; admission is free. For more information, call 303-447-2074 or go to
Thu., Sept. 4, 2008


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