Excerpt: ...405 "It appeared to me that in ascending and descending the scale, the intervals were always exactly half-tones; and I am sure that the highest note was the exact octave to the lowest. The quality of the notes is very musical; and I do not doubt that a good violinist would be able to give a correct idea of the gibbon's composition, ...Read MoreExcerpt: ...405 "It appeared to me that in ascending and descending the scale, the intervals were always exactly half-tones; and I am sure that the highest note was the exact octave to the lowest. The quality of the notes is very musical; and I do not doubt that a good violinist would be able to give a correct idea of the gibbon's composition, excepting as regards its loudness." Mr. Waterhouse then gives the notes. Professor Owen, who is likewise a musician, confirms the foregoing statement, and remarks that this gibbon "alone of brute mammals may be said to sing." It appears to be much excited after its performance. Unfortunately its habits have never been closely observed in a state of nature; but from the analogy of almost all other animals, it is highly probable that it utters its musical notes especially during the season of courtship. 333 The perception, if not the enjoyment, of musical cadences and of rhythm is probably common to all animals, and no doubt depends on the common physiological nature of their nervous systems. Even Crustaceans, which are not capable of producing any voluntary sound, possess certain auditory hairs, which have been seen to vibrate when the proper musical notes are struck. 406 It is well known that some dogs howl when hearing particular tones. Seals apparently appreciate music, and their fondness for it "was well known to the ancients, and is often taken advantage of by the hunters at the present day." 407 With all those animals, namely insects, amphibians, and birds, the males of which during the season of courtship incessantly produce musical notes or mere rhythmical sounds, we must believe that the females are able to appreciate them, and are thus excited or charmed; otherwise the incessant efforts of the males and the complex structures often possessed exclusively by them would be useless. With man song is generally admitted to be the basis or origin of instrumental music. As...Read Less
Darwin's Descent of Man is one of the great books of all time. If you haven't haven't read it (along with the Origin of Species), you haven't lived! In the first part of the work Darwin explores the evidence for humanity's descent from primate ancestors, and, deeper in time, from the vertebrate lineage. He also deals with questions such as the place of origin of humans (he assumes, correctly, Africa), and whether the human races are sufficiently distinct as to be different species (he dismisses this argument conclusively). The second part of the work is about sexual selection, those aspects of an organism that are not formed by natural selection (competition), but by the preferences of other members of the species in breeding choices. Darwin returns at the end of the book to humans, arguing that many features of humans are a result of sexual selection. Two qualities epitomise this work, firstly the vast erudition of the author and the subtleties of his argument. Secondly the evident affection and compassion with which Darwin viewed all living things. Who can forget, for example, his anecdote of the male dung beetle who appeared ?highly agitated? when his mate was removed, and the female dung-beetle, who when the male was removed, stopped still and refused to move at all!
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