Speaking to Classic FM, he noted that music came before speech and has a territorial and a sexual purpose for all kinds of species.
“Chimpanzees use complex drumming and communicate with one another. Music was right there from the beginning,” he said.
However, among humans, he marvelled at the evidence that certain organs are in the body only to create complex music.
“One of the mysteries, from a scientific point of view, is the human larynx. If you hear a coloratura soprano singing, how is it you have the apparatus to make that extraordinary sound?” he said, noting that the larynx is not used in speech.
“Mother nature doesn’t produce specialist organs for no reason at all, so there’s every reason to suppose that music and complicated singing came before speech.”
Among animals, the naturalist observed that while lions use their roar to mark their territory, some birds use music to attract a mate, best illustrated by the reed warbler, which produces a long trill to gain the affections of the female.
However, while music might have a primal power, Sir David said that humans have since “loaded other things onto music as well” such as religion and nationalistic connotations, making music into “a language [that] says things to us”.
From his own experiences, Sir David said that he cannot remember ever being without music. He told the broadcaster that as a child he would sit under the piano as his mother played.
“Then later on when I became a little more competent myself I used to play four-handed reductions of Beethoven symphonies with my mother,” he recalled.
Living in Leicester as a child, Sir David said that he could identify a classical music piece easily by the age of 12 or 13 after regularly hearing visiting orchestras at De Montfort Hall.
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