Friday, August 3, 2012

Ramblings On Vertebrate Mating Dances and Rhythm

a few weeks ago i was watching israeli folk dancing, and wondering about cichlid fish, and birds.

prospective mates sizing each other up for skill, genetic health and compatibility. the fact that someone could have memorized dozens, HUNDREDS of complex synchronized dance movements. like the brown thrasher and his 2000 songs. the fact that you can synchronize with another person to that level of accuracy.

the cichlids that have to spend many weeks together at the risky consuming task of raising kids in a three dimensional risky environment. the females probably got a whole season invested in this, so it's got to be done RIGHT! so they gotta be sure they are compatible physically. they go through elaborate sizing each other up dances:

over 1000 different kinds... these guys lay eggs and then care for them, then care for their young. some build nests for the kids, some keep the eggs in their mouths, some excrete a kind of 'milk' on their skins that the babies feed off of. variations of males, females caring for the kids.

it's alot of work and so the males and females have a complex time sizing each other up during courtship to decide wether they will work well together for the coming weeks/months of raising kids. big investment in time and energy.

fascinating book. fascinating fish.

but all the vertebrates going through these elaborate mating routines. do they really make important choices? how important are the choices? how MUCH difference do they make? enough to warrant the elaborate games?  wonder how you test it.

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how do the ones that mate for more than one season compare? do song birds mate for more than one season? scrub jays? thier male kids help 'em raise up another batch, so... like wolves. not elephants. not chimps. not dolphins?

and humans wouldn't if it weren't for the fact that the guys stay on to help raise up a kid that takes years... so he ends up having more? but chimp kids take years... the sisters help.

hypothesis on why male mates stick around for childraising in Humans: unlike in chimps the older sisters aint mature enough to help out by the time the next kid comes along!

 * * *
so write about rhythmic mammals.  what's it mean:?  social function, even the women?  interesting.  one doesn't usuually think of it.  yet many mammal societies are women elephants and dolphins and chimps  three different groups.  not wolves.  not carnivores, curious!  woops dolphins are carnivores.  hunters?  or grazers?

so whence the rhythm?  what other mammals?  birds don't do it!  one thinks of animals doing something rhythmic as pathological!  really?  the polar bear going rouund and round his tank.  a sick fish shimmying..

 * * *
hmmm the place of human music in human evolution...

one thing i would note, is that while bird "song" is very complex (see my posts about Kroodsma's book) it is VERY different than our long winding narrative songmaking.

lots of aspects to our music. the songs, the songtructures, the long narratives, the harmonic structures, and the rhythm

our music and our language facilities seem to be related..

do octopi do anything like music?

music is hierarchical, so is language, do narratives tend to have nested heirarchies, or are they "and then this happened and then that happened" or are they more tangled...

i can think of some specifics: narratives long winding narratives. so far we know no animal that can weave long stories stanza after stanza with subtle variations, like shakespeare or charlie parker.

mockingbirds? subtle variations, but i don't know if they are telling a narrative.

whales? i don't know what they are doing.

honeybees? (search forum) their narratives are very short and finite.

communal bonding:

i know of no other species that gets together in communities as populous as ours. HUNDREDS of millions? in nations? in relgions in isms, in brand loyalty...

no ant community goes to 100 million

exacerbating this is our propensity to communal ecstatic states. we whip each other into frenzied mobs that can build empires or storm empires.

has something to do with rhythm


usually in other animals, behaving in a mechanically rhytmic state is a sign of sickness?

i know of no other animal that keeps rhythm like we do, creatively, subtly but STEADILY, no birds sing in the rhythm that human musicians and ecstatic dancers do...

this relates to the fact that we use steady rythm and rythmic breathing to reach ecstatic states.

when we reach these rythmic ecstatic states in mobs we march across the planet and take over...

not extended period, that i think is the key point! humans will do rhythm for HOURS, KEEPING rhythm, but CREATIVELY. god, i miss the pots and pans man down in the subway at times square! and to the point of reacing ecstatic states.

do any animals do THAT?

head bobbing of iquanas, is that really in good rhythm?

i'm talking:

tony williams playin' live at the plugged nickle with miles davis:

it's rhythmic it's precise but fluid, he's thinking INSIDE the rhythm, (totally unlike those frogs you heard, unless i'm mistaken) check out:

amazing shit.

1 comment:

TH said...

1) What about crickets and fireflies, and rhythm in their mating rituals?

2) Human mating rituals vary from culture to culture. I've talked to people from India who say arranged marriage works well for them.

3) Music and language facilities related? I was noticing the opposite today. I've always learned in the verbal part of my brain, so this music is very different for me. I'm memorizing a melody, and my ears and my fingers have learned to play it, but my language can't tell you the names of the notes I am playing.

4)Rhythm -- communal ecstatic states -- connections between riots, protest movements, dance, sex. Book by Barbara Ehrenriech: Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. I think she said we dance as a way to cooperate, it helps us unite to fend off the bears. Also, the book is about more than dance.

5) It's not always communal. Ecstatic dance. That's what I do in solitude.

6) But I love music and dance in community too. Music and dance in community seem to have the power sometimes to make us feel like we all love each other.

7) Human mating rituals? Dance? Rhythm? Dance can be a human mating ritual. Or it can be done by couples already paired, and perhaps thus serves not only to get people together, but to help them stay together. But dance may serve purposes other than mating, and mating may happen without dance. Seems in our cultural we don't have mating rituals as structured as the crickets. Human mates find each other in all sorts of different ways.