Sunday, August 23, 2009

191. An Overwhelming Question -- Part 10

" . . . the conditions described above could not exist unless both the musical style and the cultural characteristics we've been considering, as evidenced so clearly among so many groups of contemporary pygmies and bushmen, were not also present in the culture of their (and our) mutual ancestors." Since this statement is both so succinct and so extreme that it may not yet seem fully justified to most reading here, I want to back up a bit to review the gist of my argument as clearly as I can.

First, as far as the musical evidence is concerned, I believe it has been amply demonstrated that P/B is a style that can indeed be traced back to the common ancestors of both the pygmies and bushmen. I am not the first to make such a claim. Gilbert Rouget and Alan Lomax preceded me, and ethnologist/ethnomusicologist Charlotte Frisbie, after an independent review, concluded that "[I]n view of the attributes of music which make it a valid tool in reconstructing culture history, these findings would present a serious problem to anyone who tried to deny an earlier historical connection between the two groups" ("Anthropological and Ethnomusicological Implications of a Comparative Analysis of Bushmen and African Pygmy Music." Ethnology 10 (3), 1971, p. 287).

What I have done, both here and in a series of essays devoted to various aspects of this issue, is to more fully develop the argument, subject the evidence to a more complete review, expand on its various implications, respond to various objections, and relate the musical evidence to recent findings in the fields of both archaeology and genetics pointing so strongly to the Out of Africa model. As a result of my research, I am confident that all objections to the hypothesis in question have been adequately refuted, and believe it reasonable to assume that their common ancestors did, in fact, vocalize in the same highly distinctive manner as so many pygmies and bushmen of our own time.

Second, since the great bulk of the genetic evidence points to the lineages of certain Pygmy and Bushmen groups as rooted in the most ancient branches of the human family tree, with an estimated date of divergence running well into the Old Stone Age,* it seems reasonable to conclude that 1. P/B is at least that old, and 2. that the ancestors of all humans now living may well have vocalized in essentially the same manner (which tells us that P/B may well represent the foundational musical style, from which all others are derived).

By far the greatest part of my own research with respect to the pygmies and bushmen, as reflected in all my published papers and almost everything written in this blog, has been limited to the musical implications of the above. Upon further reflection, however, based on the insights and research of people such as Alan Lomax, Colin Turnbull, Michelle Kisliuk and Simha Arom, I realized that

Third, P/B has certain truly remarkable characteristics that can take us from the realm of music to that of culture. It can indeed function, as I now see it, with a growing sense of wonder and possibility, as a kind of musical/cultural Rosetta Stone. There are two aspects to this association: 1. P/B is organized in such a way that it reflects certain important aspects of the way in which both pygmy and bushmen societies are organized; and 2. pygmy and bushmen societies are organized in such a way as to make some of the most remarkable and distinctive characteristics of P/B possible.

It's important to understand, at this juncture, that demonstrating a common origin for pygmy and bushmen music in a common ancestor does not, in itself, necessarily establish that any other cultural features certain groups of pygmies or bushmen might have in common were also shared by the same ancestor. There are, in fact, several differences among the various groups. Nor, in itself, does the list of cultural similarities I presented in post 184, with respect to egalitarianism, sharing, cooperation, precise coordination, individual autonomy, absence of coercion (i.e., violence avoidance), etc., even though the list in fact describes a great many pygmy and bushmen groups of today, establish that the same attributes were necessarily characteristic of their common ancestor, however suggestive that possibility might seem.

And here we must pause to think a bit about the profound difference between a musical style, especially one as intricate and distinctive as P/B, and a cultural attribute, such as egalitarian social structure or individual autonomy. A musical performance is a particular type of human behavior, with distinctive features that are explicit, precisely defined, easily demonstrated and easily represented (via recordings or music notation, for example), whereas a cultural attribute is fundamentally an abstraction, often vague, and easily misperceived and/or misunderstood. Since a typical P/B performance is so distinctive, the common presence of this style among so many different pygmy and bushmen groups is unmistakable -- thus in the words of Charlotte Frisbie, presenting "a serious problem to anyone who tried to deny an earlier historical connection." The presence of a common cultural attribute, on the other hand, however interesting and suggestive the similarity might seem, cannot in itself present anywhere near so convincing a case. However,

Fourth, the intimate association between the way the social structure of pygmy and bushmen groups are organized, in terms of precisely the set of shared traits already mentioned (egalitarianism, sharing, cooperation, precise coordination, individual autonomy, absence of coercion (i.e., violence avoidance), etc.), and the manner in which a typical P/B performance is constructed (as, in the words of Arom, "the image of all their social activities") strongly suggests that, if the ancestral group did indeed vocalize in P/B style (as I'm convinced I have been able to establish), such a mode of musical performance would have reflected their social structure in precisely the same manner. And if there should be any lingering doubts in that respect, then

Fifth, since the likelihood that a musical style so strongly characterized by all the aforementioned features could have developed in a cultural setting devoid of them would appear to be nil, it seems highly likely that the socio-cultural setting in which our common ancestors lived could not have been very different, with respect to that same set of features, from that of the pygmy and bushmen groups we've been considering.

(to be continued . . . )

*For reasons I don't completely understand, most Archaeologists have adopted the phrase "Old Stone Age" as the African equivalent to the European "Paleolithic."

20 comments:

German said...

Victor,

As I was reading Frisbee's article in Ethnology, a couple of passages begged for a question. At one point she describes Bushman singing in the following way (p. 274):
"Songs are usually organized so that one person begins them by singing a melodic pattern. He or she adds the rhythmic pattern in a clap and then others join in the "unison." These people imitate the first person ("the leader"), sometimes in a canonic form."

It sounds like a description of what you call a "canonic-echoic" style and a "unison" style, rather than P/B, no?

In another place she writes: "Bushman melodies are simple in that they represent elementary versification coupled with rudimentary musical phrases."

At face value this contradicts your description of P/B style as "marked" and "complex." You argue against the evolutionary trajectory from simple to complex but then it looks like, from Frisbee's description, simple and complex are relative terms. Monophony and polyphony may not be related to each other as "simple" to "complex" but rather as two different musical strategies with more rudimentary and more derived forms within each of them.

The article does mention yodeling and hocket among the Khoisan but it still makes me confused as to the difference between the Khoisan version of P/B style and canonic-echoic and unison singing that you describe as derived from P/B.

DocG said...

Frisbie isn't expressing herself very clearly, I'm afraid, so that passage is confusing. When she writes that "others join in 'unison'," what she means, I'm sure, is that others join in together with the first singer. This is probably why she put the word "unison" in quotation marks. It would be more accurate to say that others join in with countermelodies -- or in canonic imitation. Unison passages can be found in this style, but only as part of an overall polyphonic texture. They are not typical.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, however, P/B can be understood as a "comprehensive musical style," i.e., many different modes of musical expression are conflated within it. Which helps us to realize that many different modes of singing together may not be as different from one another as we might think. For example, there is a close relationship between heterophony, canon and unison, since all three involve multiple performers performing the same melody. Similarly there is an association between antiphony, interlock and hocket. Also between heterophony and polyphony. All of the above are conflated in P/B. If P/B is indeed "the foundational musical style, from which all others are derived," as I've suggested it could be, then that would make a lot of sense because it would be easier to see how other styles could be derived from it.

As far as "canon" is concerned, P/B polyphony can involve either the interweaving of independent countermelodies, or heterophonic variants (or both together), or various forms of canonic imitation, sometimes note-for-note, more often with some degree of variation. The difference between canonic imitation as we find it in P/B and what I've called "canonic-echoic style" is that canonic-echoic performances tend to be rhythmically looser, i.e., less closely coordinated than P/B performances, which are invariably strictly coordinated rhythmically.
Significantly, despite the strong similarity between the two, canonic-echoic style is rarely found in subsaharan Africa if at all. Of course, some canonic-echoic performances are more coordinated than others, so in some cases it's not easy to distinguish between the two styles. For me that's not a problem because for me C-E is most likely a survival (in somewhat varied form) of P/B, or at least one aspect of it.

DocG said...

As far as the "simplicity" of Bushman melodies, I would not characterize them in the same way as Frisbie does. Bushman solo songs are simple in a certain sense, yes, in that they are limited to relatively few notes in the scale, and there is more emphasis on unrelated motives rather then extended phrases, but they are also not as predictable as, for example, European melodies.

In any case, when I wrote about the complexity of P/B, I was not referring to the melodies, which can be relatively simple, yes, but to the complexity of the overall contrapuntal texture and the intricacy of the interplay between and among all the many parts.

Of course, there is no reason to insist that contrapuntal, multi-part singing is necessarily more complex than solo singing, especially since we are aware of how complex the solo singing of India, or the Arab world, or China or Japan, Korea, etc. can be, not to mention European opera.

But all the complex solo styles I know of seem to have developed at a much later stage historically than the solo songs of indigenous people, which are indeed relatively simple -- and certainly simpler than P/B.

German said...

Okay, this is very clear. Thank you. I agree that once you've found a musical tradition that cuts across two polar logical possibilities, it's natural to put this tradition at the root of a tree and then show how other traditions derive from it. At the same time, I remain unconviced that a complicated, multi-part, tightly integrated musical style could survive in parts of Africa for 100,000 years, while it decomposed in most of the rest of the world. Could one think of canonic-echoic as a musical style in which unision, canon, heterophony and polyphony are conflated on a more fundamental, albeit rudimentary level? A key aspect of my kinship phylogeny is the finding that Africans virtually lack in one type of kinship systems, which I postulate as ancestral, but Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo speakers tend to have a type that is only one node removed from it. Without trying to mangle your theory, could one imagine the evolution from canonic-echoic to P/B to the rest?

As far as I understand Fourniss and Olivier argue that Bushmen sing in a melodic (heterophony, unison and canon) way, while Pygmies in a true polyphonic way. I look forward to reading your extensive critique of their interpretation.

Another question: in parts of South Ethiopia, among Omotic speakers such as Dorze and Maale, social organization is based on dual divisions into moieties. In this part of Africa, as well as elswhere in the world, where moieties are found, the moieties are interlocked into a complicated system of exchange. For instance, one moiety buries the members of the other moiety after they die. A religious and musical expression of this reciprocity is the pattern by which the leader of one moiety starts a song or a prayer, while the leader of the other moiety finishes it.

Have you encountered this kind of mapping of song structure onto moiety divisions in your research? If yes, do you know if it affects polyphonic or melodic (monophonic) singing? Does the melody stay the same when it's passed over to the leader of the opposite moiety, or each moiety has its own melody?
I'm still looking for a good structural fit between your musical styles and the known aspects of social structure and kinship. There may not be any, but if there're it would make my task of finding where we branch into two radically different directions easier.

DocG said...

"it's natural to put this tradition at the root of a tree and then show how other traditions derive from it."

There are many reasons why I've placed this tradition at the root of the musical tree, not just one. Once I realized it was at the root of the tree, only then did I notice how its formal properties made it easy to see it as a comprehensive style that could serve as a prototype for a great many other styles.

"Could one think of canonic-echoic as a musical style in which unision, canon, heterophony and polyphony are conflated on a more fundamental, albeit rudimentary level?"

Not really, no, because the conflation would be mainly in the head of the musicologist, not really displayed in the music. P/B performances by pygmies and bushmen actually do conflate all these techniques in very specific ways.

"A key aspect of my kinship phylogeny is the finding that Africans virtually lack in one type of kinship systems, which I postulate as ancestral, but Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo speakers tend to have a type that is only one node removed from it. Without trying to mangle your theory, could one imagine the evolution from canonic-echoic to P/B to the rest?"

In principle I see no reason why any musical style could not be seen as ancestral, if regarded purely in formal terms. However, what makes me see P/B as ancestral is not so much its formal properties per se, though they are a factor, but its distribution throughout the world and its full flowering among the two groups most likely to be both genetically and culturally ancestral.

As I see it, we learn from history what is most likely to be ancestral culturally and not the other way 'round. Is it more likely that net hunting preceded the bow and arrow? that solo singing preceded group singing? that tonal languages preceded non-tonal languages? that P/B preceded canonic-echoic? or that a certain type of kinship system preceded all the others? In all these cases, as I see it, there is nothing in the formal properties of the cultural practice itself that can tell us what came first. This can only be assessed 1. from inferences based on the worldwide distribution patterns of each practice; 2. from clues derived from research in other fields, such as archaeology, linguistics, genetics, etc.

DocG said...

German, what you say about moieties and also the questions you ask about them interest me very much. This is an aspect of the musical research that I haven't explored, but I can see that it could be important.

FYI the Dorze and several other groups in SW Ethiopia are of special interest musically, as certain of their repertoires are in some version of P/B, with a considerable amount of interlocking counterpoint. Also the Dorze version of P/B includes yodel and strongly resembles pygmy and bushmen performances. They don't sing this way all the time, however -- this style is only one of the genres in which they perform.

I appreciate your efforts to connect the musical styles with what you've learned about the kinship categories. But I have a suspicion that kinship works differently than other aspects of culture and language. When you have one African group with a "Hawaiian" kinship type and another with an "Iroquois" type, that tells me that kinship may not be a reflection of long term historical associations after all, but of more local, incidental contingencies that would be hard to reproduce today. Is it possible that kinship types are simply logical ways of defining kin relations that can shift from one type to another as the result of, for instance, someone wanting to marry someone else who would ordinarily be forbidden and so the group agrees to shift to another kinship type to accomodate them? And then the new system sticks? Has anyone ever examined that possibility?

German said...

German: "Could one think of canonic-echoic as a musical style in which unision, canon, heterophony and polyphony are conflated on a more fundamental, albeit rudimentary level?"

Victor: Not really, no, because the conflation would be mainly in the head of the musicologist, not really displayed in the music. P/B performances by pygmies and bushmen actually do conflate all these techniques in very specific ways.

German: This makes me think that P/B is a composite style that has absorbed several elements that earlier existed either separately or in a different combination. Maybe it's the way you phrased it...

Victor: "Once I realized it was at the root of the tree, only then did I notice how its formal properties made it easy to see it as a comprehensive style that could serve as a prototype for a great many other styles."

German: Again, seems like you're putting the cart before the horse. Although distributional evidence is important (in my case, ancestral kinship systems aren't found in Africa), only formal properties can adjudicate between ancestral and derived states. If P/B is a composite style, it may be derived and not ancestral. Jazz is a composite style because it embraces Amerindian, European and African musical elements. You could "unravel" it into each of the respective traditions that contributed to it but it's not ancestral to them.

Canonic-echoic is found in South America, Melanesia, Southeast Asia (and in Lithuanian sutartine, right?). So why cannot this distribution be suggestive of an ancestral status?

Can we say that the path from C/E to monophony is shorter than from P/B to monophony? C/E and monophony are found in contiguous areas within Papua new Guinea and South America, while in Africa C/E and monophony are both absent. I could hypothesize that C/E evolved into monophony by simple feature loss (no polyphony) and into P/B by simple feature addition (more integration). The wide distribution of P/B style can be explained rather easily: it had to travel a long way into Africa, hence it left its traces here and there as populations budded off. But isolated areas of South America, Southeast Asia and Oceania preserve its ancestral state that you call "canonic-echoic."

This scenario would be very interesting from the point of view of the distribution of genetic lineages and the distribution of kinship systems. In a word, musical evidence would add its own unique value to human dispersals research.

What exactly, genetic phylogenies aside, prevents you from thinking of musical evolution in this way?

German said...

German: "Could one think of canonic-echoic as a musical style in which unision, canon, heterophony and polyphony are conflated on a more fundamental, albeit rudimentary level?"

Victor: Not really, no, because the conflation would be mainly in the head of the musicologist, not really displayed in the music. P/B performances by pygmies and bushmen actually do conflate all these techniques in very specific ways.

German: This makes me think that P/B is a composite style that has absorbed several elements that earlier existed either separately or in a different combination. Maybe it's the way you phrased it...

Victor: "Once I realized it was at the root of the tree, only then did I notice how its formal properties made it easy to see it as a comprehensive style that could serve as a prototype for a great many other styles."

German: Again, seems like you're putting the cart before the horse. Although distributional evidence is important (in my case, ancestral kinship systems aren't found in Africa), only formal properties can adjudicate between ancestral and derived states. If P/B is a composite style, it may be derived and not ancestral. Jazz is a composite style because it embraces Amerindian, European and African musical elements. You could "unravel" it into each of the respective traditions that contributed to it but it's not ancestral to them.

Canonic-echoic is found in South America, Melanesia, Southeast Asia (and in Lithuanian sutartine, right?). So why cannot this distribution be suggestive of an ancestral status?

Can we say that the path from C/E to monophony is shorter than from P/B to monophony? C/E and monophony are found in contiguous areas within Papua new Guinea and South America, while in Africa C/E and monophony are both absent. I could hypothesize that C/E evolved into monophony by simple feature loss (no polyphony) and into P/B by simple feature addition (more integration). The wide distribution of P/B style can be explained rather easily: it had to travel a long way into Africa, hence it left its traces here and there as populations budded off. But isolated areas of South America, Southeast Asia and Oceania preserve its ancestral state that you call "canonic-echoic."

This scenario would be very interesting from the point of view of the distribution of genetic lineages and the distribution of kinship systems. In a word, musical evidence would add its own unique value to human dispersals research.

What exactly, genetic phylogenies aside, prevents you from thinking of musical evolution in this way?

German said...

Victor: "When you have one African group with a "Hawaiian" kinship type and another with an "Iroquois" type, that tells me that kinship may not be a reflection of long term historical associations after all, but of more local, incidental contingencies that would be hard to reproduce today. Is it possible that kinship types are simply logical ways of defining kin relations that can shift from one type to another as the result of, for instance, someone wanting to marry someone else who would ordinarily be forbidden and so the group agrees to shift to another kinship type to accomodate them? And then the new system sticks? Has anyone ever examined that possibility?"

German: The terms "Hawaiian" and "Iroquois" are misleading (they were coined by the first student of kinship, L. H. Morgan, and are as confusing as the term "Semito-hamitic" languages) and most scholars prefer to call these systems "Generational" and "Bifurcate Merging." You touch on a very significant question of comparative kinship studies: how do we know that the semantic, cognitive and social structures underlying kinship terminologies are stable overtime and are not subject to stochastic processes? There're indeed recorded cases when a tribal chief would introduce a change into the marriage practices of his tribe in order to honor the love of his daughter for a "wrong" man. However all stochastic processes need to form a pattern of their own in order to become theoretically meaningful. There's a great diversity in the forms of marriage, kinship organization and, especially, in kinship terminologies. This makes me hope that stochastic processes result in meaningful variation that can be detected as a type and linked to other more frequent types.

Recently, I've been researching a topic that raises similar questions. I've been struggling to understand from literature whether moieties in Omotic and Southern Cushitic groups are the result of a recent amalgamation of two ethnic groups into a single society or an archaic retention ultimately related to Australian and American Indian moieties. For now, I answered the question by way of a compromise. Moieties must be survivals from an ancient past but as societies change and face new situations, they accommodate/interpret the new social situation in the light of the categories they already have at their disposal. There cases, such as the quadripartite division of Cuzco, in which an apparently ancient "egalitarian" kinship structure managed to adjust to a highly stratified society.

Or, an interesting argument was put forth regarding the role of kinship structures in the evolution of modern European democracies. The absence of unilineal forms of social organization among Germanic tribes (which in itself may be a retention from proto-Indo-European society) facilitated the formation of an individualistic ethic and the non-kinship ("contract" in old legal terminology) forms of social relationships.

Plus ca change plus ca la meme chose.

German said...

Victor, I sent you a response to your reaction to my book. However it couldn't be delivered. Please let me know when your e-mail is back on and I'll re-send it.

DocG said...

German: "Again, seems like you're putting the cart before the horse. Although distributional evidence is important (in my case, ancestral kinship systems aren't found in Africa), only formal properties can adjudicate between ancestral and derived states."

On this point we disagree. Once we isolate a style that looks like a good candidate for the ancestral state, THEN it makes sense to examine its formal properties closely, to see what they can teach us about the nature of the phenomenon and how it has evolved from that point on. This is what I have done.

As I see it, there is nothing about any of the formal properties per se of any musical style that would tell us "this must have come first." This was the error of the old school of comparative musicologists, who got nowhere.

A good analogy is with cave paintings, where some of the earliest examples are also some of the most fully developed, with many of the elements of modern realistic illustration. It's only later that we see "simpler" forms, painted or etched with relatively "crude" techniques. If we didn't know from experience that the earliest forms would also be the most "realistic," it's highly unlikely that we could have inferred that from formal analysis.

But every element of culture may well have laws of its own, so what might work for music might not work for kinship or language.

German: "If P/B is a composite style, it may be derived and not ancestral. Jazz is a composite style because it embraces Amerindian, European and African musical elements. You could "unravel" it into each of the respective traditions that contributed to it but it's not ancestral to them."

This is an excellent point. And another reason why I don't believe in putting formal analysis first when trying to determine ancestral states.

In any case, as I see it, there is a big difference between what I call a comprehensive system and a hybrid. In the former, all the various elements are conflated, i.e., intermeshed in such a way that it's very difficult to separate them, whereas in a hybrid style like jazz the various elements are overlaid on top of one another and can in most cases be "unravelled," as you say.

For example, jazz rhythms are strongly influenced by African rhythms, whereas the harmonies are based on Western harmonies. The instruments are all Western, but played with inflections that are characteristically African. Etc. There are exceptions as well, since jazz melodies do appear to be a true conflation of European and African elements that would be very difficult to sort out.

You make a good point, nevertheless, and logically speaking one might be able to argue that P/B is a composite of elements from other musical traditions that got fused together over time. But when we consider ALL the evidence, it soon becomes clear, for reasons I have already provided, that P/B is much more likely to be ancestral. However, if you dispute the genetic and archaeological evidence and firmly believe we all came from the Americas rather than Africa, then the evidence will speak to you in a different language, for sure.

DocG said...

I must add that what I've written above does not mean that P/B was the very first type of music, because we have no way of knowing what sort of music preceded it. All I can say with confidence is that it is almost certainly the musical style favored by the ancestral group from whom the pygmies and bushmen originally diverged. What happened prior to that moment it's very difficult to say.

But even on this point, I am more inclined to base my speculations on evidence gleaned from primatology than on purely formal musical considerations. And since Bonobos and certain other primates vocalize in a manner that seems similar in some ways to certain elements of P/B, this is where I think it's most useful to look. From this viewpoint, it is the interactive aspect that would seem most significant, rather than a formal element such as a scale structure or melody type.

This for me was Lomax's most important breakthrough, the focus on music as social interaction, as opposed to the purely formal aspect of how the notes are cobbled together.

DocG said...

"Victor, I sent you a response to your reaction to my book. However it couldn't be delivered. Please let me know when your e-mail is back on and I'll re-send it."

That surprises me. Please check to make sure you have the right address. I did a test and my email is now working properly, so please resend your post.

DocG said...

German: "I've been struggling to understand from literature whether moieties in Omotic and Southern Cushitic groups are the result of a recent amalgamation of two ethnic groups into a single society or an archaic retention ultimately related to Australian and American Indian moieties."

This interests me because, as I mentioned earlier, the Dorze have vocal and instrumental traditions closely related to P/B, but they also, so far as I can tell, seem to have other musical genres not shared with Pygmy or Bushmen groups. I haven't looked into these other genres very deeply, so I could be getting some of this wrong. There are other instances as well, in Africa and elsewhere, where you find some variant of P/B co-existent with another very different musical style. It's occurred to me that this could be due to, as you say, "a recent amalgamation of two ethnic groups into a single society." Or it could be due to borrowing from a neighboring group. It would be interesting to know whether groups with multiple styles of this sort were also organized in terms of moieties, as that could be a clue to the presence of more than one type of music in that society.

German said...

Victor,

As we speak, a very interesting article is about to appear in Annals of Human Genetics entitled "Genetic Evidence for Complexity in Ethnic Differentiation and History in East Africa." See an abstract on Dienekes. I just read the whole paper and can send it to you. The authors argue for a long history of alternations between isolation and genetic drift, on the one hand, and gene flow and language shift, on the other, in East Africa. They challenge the dominant interpretation of the highest levels of genetic diversity in East Africa compared to the rest of Africa and the rest of the world as a sign of the great age of East African populations and instead suggest that this is the result of the tumultuous last 10-20,000 years. They also note that Hadza and Sandawe are different from the rest of East Africans in having high levels of intergroup (between-groups) diversity and low levels of intragroup (within-group) diversity, and this is exactly the pattern that Tishkoff and others report for America and Melanesia.

This is exactly what I've been talking about on a bigger scale. And East Africa is one key area because all of the most divergent subbranches of African language stocks are found there (Omotic in Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Hadza and Sandawe inKhoisan and Kordofanian in Niger-Congo).

German said...

Victor,

As we speak, a very interesting article is about to appear in Annals of Human Genetics entitled "Genetic Evidence for Complexity in Ethnic Differentiation and History in East Africa." See an abstract on Dienekes. I just read the whole paper and can send it to you. The authors argue for a long history of alternations between isolation and genetic drift, on the one hand, and gene flow and language shift, on the other, in East Africa. They challenge the dominant interpretation of the highest levels of genetic diversity in East Africa compared to the rest of Africa and the rest of the world as a sign of the great age of East African populations and instead suggest that this is the result of the tumultuous last 10-20,000 years. They also note that Hadza and Sandawe are different from the rest of East Africans in having high levels of intergroup (between-groups) diversity and low levels of intragroup (within-group) diversity, and this is exactly the pattern that Tishkoff and others report for America and Melanesia.

This is exactly what I've been talking about on a bigger scale. And East Africa is one key area because all of the most divergent subbranches of African language stocks are found there (Omotic in Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Hadza and Sandawe inKhoisan and Kordofanian in Niger-Congo).

German said...

Victor,

My e-mail message to your verizon account again bounced back. I tried again and attached that genetics paper on east Africa to it. Let me know if you received it. I triple checked the address... Strange.

DocG said...

I left one of your quesitons hanging, German, and that's been bothering me: "Canonic-echoic is found in South America, Melanesia, Southeast Asia (and in Lithuanian sutartine, right?). So why cannot this distribution be suggestive of an ancestral status?"

This sort of distribution definitely suggests great age, no question. And imo C-E is likely in fact to be an archaic style, i.e., an ancient survival. What convinces me that it's nevertheless derived and not ancestral is the fact that I haven't yet found any instances of it in Africa. And all the evidence I've ever seen that makes sense (sorry, German, but OOAmerica does NOT make sense to me) points to Africa and nowhere else as the origin point for homo sapiens. If the Pygmies and Bushmen were vocalizing in C-E style rather than P/B I'd suspect that C-E could be ancestral -- but they aren't. Another aspect is that P/B is far more complex and far more distinctive than C-E, thus far less likely to have been produced via independent invention, or independent lines of convergent evolution, which could possibly be the case for C-E. Actually I see canonic singing in Lithuania and other parts of Europe as an independent survival of P/B, probably unrelated to C-E as found in S. E. Asia, Melanesia and S. America, though both strains ultimately, as I see it, derive from P/B.

"Can we say that the path from C/E to monophony is shorter than from P/B to monophony?"

I don't see things in those terms. As I see it, one day people could be vocalizing happily in P/B style, the next day they could be hit by a Tsunami or an Earthquake or a vocanic eruption and their culture all but totally destroyed. What happens next would depend on factors that simply cannot be predicted. This is one reason why I tend to reject the notion of cultural evolution dominated by continuities in favor of something closer to punctuated equilibrium.

"C/E and monophony are found in contiguous areas within Papua new Guinea and South America, while in Africa C/E and monophony are both absent. I could hypothesize that C/E evolved into monophony by simple feature loss (no polyphony) and into P/B by simple feature addition (more integration). The wide distribution of P/B style can be explained rather easily: it had to travel a long way into Africa, hence it left its traces here and there as populations budded off. But isolated areas of South America, Southeast Asia and Oceania preserve its ancestral state that you call "canonic-echoic.""

As I've said, you could posit all sorts of hypotheses by focusing exclusively on formal relationships and dreaming up various ways one could evolve continuously into another. That's the sort of thinking that's dominated cultural evolution in the past. It's led to hundreds, possibly thousands of dead end taxonomies and phylogenetic trees that go nowhere and mean nothing.

I've been working on a completely different basis and frankly if my hypothesis means something it's only because of a lucky break. The fact that P/B is such a remarkable, distinctive style that's shared by THE three groups with lineages going deepest into the human family tree, provided me with the clue I needed to produce a baseline for everything else. And the more I learned about the genetic connections the more sense everything started to make. I did NOT create a system and follow it, that imo simply doesn't work, because there are a zillion people with a zillion systems all going in different directions. It's pointless. I've seen too many people go down the drain with their beautiful systems they refuse to let go of.

I see myself more like a sleuth than anything else. I work with clues, follow leads, follow hunches, collect evidence, draw inferences, check them out and discard the ones that don't work; and, when I finally catch the scent, I track down the prey. And anyone who wants to appeal the verdict is free to do so, because every step of my process is documented and replicable.

I can certainly be proven wrong. But I am NOT guilty of creating yet another system.

DocG said...

German: "As we speak, a very interesting article is about to appear in Annals of Human Genetics entitled "Genetic Evidence for Complexity in Ethnic Differentiation and History in East Africa." See an abstract on Dienekes. I just read the whole paper and can send it to you. The authors argue for a long history of alternations between isolation and genetic drift, on the one hand, and gene flow and language shift, on the other, in East Africa. They challenge the dominant interpretation of the highest levels of genetic diversity in East Africa compared to the rest of Africa and the rest of the world as a sign of the great age of East African populations and instead suggest that this is the result of the tumultuous last 10-20,000 years."

I read the article. It's interesting and makes sense. I don't see it as having any bearing on the OOA model. Sure, there's been a lot of cross-insemination between males and females from different places, in Africa just like everywhere else. And that can affect genetic diversity, sure. But the same sort of thing can happen anywhere, not just Africa. So if Africa is much more diverse than anywhere else, that still has to mean something.

The OOA model is supported by all sorts of evidence, not simply relative diversity, though that's a significant factor, and remains so. You can either spend the rest of your life trying to poke holes in it, in the hope that the system you've concocted might some day be accepted (it won't, because it makes no sense) OR you can come to your senses and use your vast knowledge of kinship systems and comparative linguistics to actually contribute something meaningful to anthropology. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's your choice, German. Think about it.

German said...

The article says: "The high diversity in East Africa was interpreted as a sign of an ancient origin. However, our results might indicate that this high diversity
could also come from a particular history of recent migrations
and admixture promoted by the pastoralist societies that dominate in the region."

I'm not going to poke holes into genetics. Geneticists will do it themselves, once they recover from their immature "African Eve" ideas and start looking at the data the way anthropology has always done: as a complex history, not as a ready-made answer to a narrow question of where we came from. Out of Africa is a concocted theory: instead of slowly weaving together knowledge from different disciplines and leaving the question of ultimate origins to the very end, it jumps to a big conclusion, grabs media attention and only then starts looking at reasonable alternatives.

You don't see ancient human populations coming out of America? Of course, you don't. They didn't know they had to leave the scientists of the future a record of their migrations. It takes a painstaking comparison between different pretty random data sets to get at an answer to a question that is interesting to only a small group of people. Out-of-Africa theorists naively assumed they could hear the voices of the ancestors speaking to them about an exodus from Africa. Victor, MY advise to you: forget about genetics, let these guys figure out what those "deep African lineages" mean and go back to what comparative musicology, according to you, has always been doing: building "hundreds, possibly thousands of taxonomies and phylogenetic trees." Stay true to your data and to your tradition.