“The first note known to have sounded on earth,” writes Mathew Lyons, “was an E natural. It was produced some 165 million years ago by a katydid (a kind of cricket*) rubbing its wings together, a fact deduced by scientists from the remains of one of these insects, preserved in amber. Consider, too, the love life of the mosquito. When a male mosquito wishes to attract a mate, his wings buzz at a frequency of 600Hz, which is the equivalent of D natural. The normal pitch of the female’s wings is 400Hz, or G natural. Just prior to sex, however, male and female harmonise at 1200Hz, which is, as Michael Spitzer notes in his extraordinary new book, The Musical Human, ‘an ecstatic octave above the male’s D’. ‘Everything we sing’, Spitzer adds, ‘is just a footnote to that.’”
So we’ve got an E, a D, and a G. Add a B and we’ve got an Em7 chord—or, depending on your mood and the chord’s root, a G6, a D6/9sus4, or a Bm#5 add(4). I prefer the Em7, though, if only because it “gives quite a jazzy feel to a piece of music.”
But I digress.
The quote comes from Lyons’s review of The Musical Human: A History of Life on Earth by Michael Spitzer. It sounds like something I need to get my hands on, if only because the book serves as a “comprehensive refutation” of Steven Pinker’s ridiculous assertion that, evolutionarily speaking, music is nothing more than “auditory cheesecake.” I mean, I dig Pinker, but that’s almost offensive.
*Come on. Do we really need Lyons to explain what a katydid is? Are we that dumb now?