When one of the residents of the National Zoo in Washington recently revealed her love of music to zookeepers there, some ears perked up. Shanthi, a 36-year-old Asian elephant loves playing (with) her harmonica. Are the noises Shanthi is making music? And what is music? Why do we have it?
"It was an evolutionary accident," says Dan Levitin, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University who has written books and papers on why we have music and why we like it.
Levitin says the accident idea is a big one. It went public back in 1997 when Harvard professor Steven Pinker, a world-renowned author and experimental psychologist, got up in front of a group of musicologists and cognitive scientists at a meeting and said words to the effect of, "You're all wasting your time because music is cheesecake."