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Alejandro Villanueva Hernandez
2023-03-20
Social Interaction and Material Culture in the Transmission of Music: An Evo-Devo Approach
 
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Topic description / abstract:

It has been argued that cultural evolution and genetic inheritance are driven by similar rules. For decades, cultural evolutionists have adopted the modelling tools and strategies of population genetics in order to study processes of cultural transmission and evolution. Most of these models endorse an idea of culture as information stored in human brains and expressed in behavior and artifacts. Thus, things and artifacts are seen as depositories of mental contents of individuals. However, this informationist approach to culture misperceives both the important role that material culture plays in the social and cognitive development of agents and how this impacts the production and transmission of cultural traits across generations. Unlike the classical informationist approach to evolution, the Evo-Devo research agenda has focused on how the mechanistic aspects of development shape and are shaped back by the patterns and processes of evolution. This evolutionary perspective provides a framework to develop new approaches to cultural evolution in which cultural transmission is not understood as the transmission of mental contents but as the result of multimodal learning processes scaffolded by complex sociomaterial mechanisms. Specific Evo-Devo inspired models of cultural evolution are still underdeveloped, and there is a lack of application of this framework to some fundamental cultural traits. In particular, there is work to be done with regards to the mechanisms of transmission and innovation of music. In this talk, I argue for an Evo-Devo approach to music reproduction focused on complex assemblies of capacities, artefacts, patterns of behaviors, and social norms that function as reproductive mechanisms of musical traditions. This allows us to show that processes of musical individuation and change are better understood as the result of a restructuration over time the sociomaterial systems in which a musical tradition is embedded.

 

Biographical note:

Luis Alejandro Villanueva Hernández holds a B.A. in Philosophy at the Benemérita University of Puebla BUAP and a M.A. in Ethnomusicology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico UNAM. He completed his PhD in Philosophy of Science at the Institute for Philosophical Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, supported by a Writing-Up Fellowship of the KLI. From January to June 2016 he did a PhD stay research under the supervision of Professor Ian Cross in the Centre for Music and Science at the Faculty of Music of the University of Cambridge. In his PhD dissertation, supervised by Professor Sergio F. Martínez, he explores models of niche construction, material culture evolution, social interaction, cognitive ethnomusicology, cognitive archaeology and embodied music cognition (among others), to develop a framework that would allow the integration of different scientific findings going on different disciplines that may be relevant to explain the origins of musical cognitive capacities. After completing his PhD, he first worked as an independent scholar at the KLI and then as an affiliated researcher at the Institute of Musicology of the University of Vienna with Prof. Julio Mendivil.

He is also an active musician and plays a wide range of traditional musical instruments from Mexico and South America. He has been, for many years, a member of a Mexican musical band called Tsasná (moonlight in Totonac language) with which he has recorded several albums and performed in many international music festivals in Mexico, Europe, South America and Asia.