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The Memetics of Music

de Steven B. Jan

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Richard Dawkins's formulation of the meme concept in his 1976 classic "The selfish gene" has inspired three decades of work in what many see as the burgeoning science of memetics. Its underpinning theory proposes that human culture is composed of a multitude of particulate units, memes, which are analogous to the genes of biological transmission. These cultural replicators are transmitted by imitation between members of a community and are subject to mutational-evolutionary pressures over time. Despite Dawkins and several others using music in their exemplifications of what might constitute a meme, these formulations have generally been quite rudimentary, even naive. This study is the first musicologically-orientated attempt systematically to apply the theory of memetics to music. In contrast to the two points of view normally adopted in music theory and analysis - namely those of the listener and the composer - the purpose of this book is to argue for a distinct and illuminating third perspective. This point of view is metaphorical and anthropomorphic, and the metaphor is challenging and controversial, but the way of thinking adopted has its basis in well-founded scientific principles and it is capable of generating insights not available from the first two standpoints. The perspective is that of the (selfish) replicated musical pattern itself, and adopting it is central to memetics. The approach taken is both theoretical and analytical… (mais)
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Richard Dawkins's formulation of the meme concept in his 1976 classic "The selfish gene" has inspired three decades of work in what many see as the burgeoning science of memetics. Its underpinning theory proposes that human culture is composed of a multitude of particulate units, memes, which are analogous to the genes of biological transmission. These cultural replicators are transmitted by imitation between members of a community and are subject to mutational-evolutionary pressures over time. Despite Dawkins and several others using music in their exemplifications of what might constitute a meme, these formulations have generally been quite rudimentary, even naive. This study is the first musicologically-orientated attempt systematically to apply the theory of memetics to music. In contrast to the two points of view normally adopted in music theory and analysis - namely those of the listener and the composer - the purpose of this book is to argue for a distinct and illuminating third perspective. This point of view is metaphorical and anthropomorphic, and the metaphor is challenging and controversial, but the way of thinking adopted has its basis in well-founded scientific principles and it is capable of generating insights not available from the first two standpoints. The perspective is that of the (selfish) replicated musical pattern itself, and adopting it is central to memetics. The approach taken is both theoretical and analytical

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