165 million years ago saw the birth of rhythm. 66 million years ago was the first melody. 40 thousand years ago Homo sapiens created the first musical instrument.
Today music fills our lives. How we have created, performed and listened to this music throughout history has defined what our species is and how we understand who we are. Yet music is an overlooked part of our origin story.
The Musical Human takes us on an exhilarating journey across the ages – from Bach to BTS and back – to explore the vibrant relationship between music and the human species. With insights from a wealth of disciplines, world-leading musicologist Michael Spitzer renders a global history of music on the widest possible canvas, looking at music in our everyday lives; music in world history; and music in evolution, from insects to apes, humans to AI.
Through this journey we begin to understand how music is central to the distinctly human experiences of cognition, feeling and even biology, both widening and closing the evolutionary gaps between ourselves and animals in surprising ways. The Musical Human boldly puts the case that music is the most important thing we ever did; it is a fundamental part of what makes us human.
Michael Spitzer is Professor of Music at the University of Liverpool. Previously he taught for twenty years at Durham University. An accomplished pianist, Spitzer is a world-leading authority on Beethoven, but he also writes widely on the philosophy and psychology of music. He lives just off Penny Lane with his wife and two daughters
"In this impressive new work Michael Spitzer argues that music is fundamental to humanity [...] It is entertaining, informative and philosophical [...] An essential read"
– All About History Magazine
"Extraordinary range [...] All the world and more is here"
– Julian Glover, Evening Standard
"An ambitious and total history of music"
– Charlotte Runcie, Daily Telegraph
"The Musical Human is full of delightful nuggets and sends the reader back to a world of musical examples time and time again"
– Guardian Online
"[An] extraordinary new book [...] Ranging from the Geissenklösterle caves to K-Pop, from the lost music of the Aztecs to the role of song in hunter-gatherer societies, and drawing on a vast array of specialisations, from archaeoacoustics to ornithology, Spitzer utilises a breath-taking variety of sources [...] Spitzer's [book] will make you think differently about music, about its place in your life and about its importance to human life tout court"
– Mathew Lyons, Literary Review
"An amazing book, tying together research in archaeology, anthropology, music history, and human origins to form a compelling and exciting account of the many ways music has developed across the world and across time [...] Michael Spitzer has pulled off the impossible: a Guns, Germs and Steel for music"
– Daniel Levitin
"A hugely ambitious work, but never daunting, and there's something thought-provoking on every page [...] With scholarship, wit and passion, this book demonstrates that there truly is a soundtrack to human lives"
– Catherine Bott, Classic FM
"A thrilling exploration of what music has meant and means to humankind"
– Ian Bostridge
"Music changed my life. It changes my mood, my thoughts, my feelings and changes the way I move. Now I know why. This book has connected me to not only the language of love but the language of life. If you can just hum, whistle out of tune or shake a leg at a wedding then open the pages of this book and know why! A revelation."
– Michael Cashman
"Musicologist Michael Spitzer sets out to explore our relationship with music in The Musical Human, providing an enormous, but not overwhelming, history of music. Blurring the lines between musical theory, anthropology, biology and history, Spitzer posits that music is one of our most defining achievements, fundamental to the human experience"
– Rhiannon Thomas, Radio Times
"Bold, compelling and ear-opening"
– Michael Prodger, New Statesman