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May 21st, 2009
Music and Evolution
The Elitism of Music in the West
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Stephen Mithen: Our conception of music in the West can be rather narrow. I think in the West it got tied up with expertise, Who does music? It’s somebody who stands on a stage and performs to others. It’s something that is done on special occasions. If you look at traditional societies they remind us that music is something that just pervades everyday of every person’s life. You know, kids just singing and dancing right from scratch. It’s just what you do. It’s not something you do on a special occasion, it’s not even something that you have to be trained for. You do it when you work, you do it when you play. Now that doesn’t mean they don’t have expertise, they don’t have special performers and people who got particular talents, but it’s something that pervades everything they do. And that reminds us that music isn’t a special elite form of activity.

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