We imagine music as a luxury but I would argue it’s as essential as eating.
We’re social creatures and music, speech, and the arts are core components dating back to our beginnings as a species.
It’s easy enough to mistake what we want for what we need. Take cooking for example. We think of cooking as a luxury, something that makes food taste better and, well, we just prefer cooked foods. The underlying facts are really quite different.
The simple act of cooking is arguably the single most important driver in our evolution. It’s so important, in fact, that most anthropologists will tell you it marks the point of departure from our primate cousins. Cooking is predigestion, allowing us to extract far more nutrients from food than subsisting on a diet of raw uncooked foods. Those additional nutrients enabled our brains to grow and, in particular, the density of neurons in our cerebral cortex (our thinking areas).
Our brains occupy a mere 2% of our body but consume 25% of our energy. Our primate cousins can’t keep up because they can’t cook.
And what’s kept these big brains of ours connected together? Words for learning, music for connecting our emotions.
The next time you’re enjoying a home cooked meal, put on a favorite album.
There’s nothing more nourishing than a plateful of food and an earful of music.