Music and State of Mind: Towards an Evolutionary Model of Gender


The article proposes an alternative, evolutionary theoretical model for the interpretation of sex differences in music-making. Based on a comparative cross-cultural analysis of gender patterns, the article argues that one major criteria for analysing gender differences cross-culturally is the state of mind, including motivation, social context and psychological state with which people, women and men, create and perform music. These cognitive aspects are reflected in the fundamental emotional-aesthetic characteristics of men’s and women’s music-making across cultures.

While current musicological scholarship explains gender differences on the basis of socially and culturally constructed conditioning and constraints, the author of this article argues for the need of evolutionary approach in addition to the constructivist theories. In particular, while the general biological capacity for music-making and perception seems to be identical in men and women, somewhat differential emotional-aesthetic characteristics of men’s and women’s music might have developed as a result of the music’s sex-specific division of survival functions in the course of evolution. Music’s biological-neural specificity supports the need for such evolutionary approach.

Based on music’s four survival functions proposed in evolutionary musicology, the article argues that compared to males, the females of human species may have had a substantially lesser involvement in one of the four significant functions of music, namely, that of group’s cognitive-emotional coordination and unification in preparation for battles and inter-group conflicts. This might explain the existing, but functionally and structurally minor, emotional-stylistic differences between men’s and women’s music.