Neanderthal Symphony

on February 14, 2009

BBC News: “Composer’s Neanderthal Recreation” In April of last year we heard a Neanderthal voice for the first time. Now it’s time to hear Neanderthal music.

Okay, so the Neanderthal music was actually composed by jazz musician Simon Thorne, who was asked to create a “soundscape” for a Neanderthal exhibit at National Museum Cardiff. The hour-and-a-quarter piece includes vocals as well as stone instruments. The music has proved so popular, however, that it will soon be going on a separate live tour.

The hour-and-a-quarter piece includes vocals as well as stone instruments.

BBC News notes that “Despite having a reputation for lacking intelligence, recent research suggests the Neanderthals were a lot more resourceful and innovative than was first thought.” And Throne adds, “Given that Neanderthal’s man brain was about the same size as ours, and much of our brain is given over to language, then you can assume they probably had language too. Every culture has language and music, so we can probably assume that they had some kind of music too.” He added, “[W]ho’s to say Neanderthal man did not invent the beginnings of music?”

Neanderthals have endured more than a few shots at their intelligence from the likes of modern media, but in fact all the evidence shows they were at least as intelligent as the rest of us. We reported last year that ancient music expert Iegor Reznikoff of the University of Paris had made an interesting discovery: the areas of French caves most densely painted by Neanderthals were also those with the best acoustics. It seems the conclusion we drew then still holds:

The classic view of cavemen and other “ancient” humans is that they were brutish, preliterate dolts who had not even a fraction of the culture, sophistication, or intelligence of today’s humans. But research like Reznikoff’s reminds us that our human forebears were incredibly intelligent, skilled in ways most modern humans lack, and—most importantly—created in the image of God.

We hope that some of those who hear Thorne’s Neanderthal soundscape will be aware of that!

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