You Are What You Hear: How Music and Territory Make Us Who We Are

You Are What You Hear: How Music and Territory Make Us Who We Are

You Are What You Hear: How Music and Territory Make Us Who We Are

You Are What You Hear: How Music and Territory Make Us Who We Are


This book is a series of interconnected ideas linking music to social territory.

That’s what it is. Here is what it isn’t. This book is not a summary of the academic literature. Nor is it a reference manual. It makes no attempt to be comprehensive, nor is it organized in a way that is needed for a researcher. In fact, it does not even stick strictly to experimentally derived facts. This book is not an undeviating march in a worthy campaign; it is more like a safari that circles back to where it started. The plan is for the book to be a romp that you can read straight through without ever checking your map, such that by the end you will have a much deeper understanding about an idea that is so intuitive that you might mistake it for a tautology.

The entire idea is this: humans have music to establish and reinforce social territory. That assertion is what my fellow academics would call speculative. This speculative nature is precisely what makes it interesting. On one level the idea is almost obvious; I have heard it mentioned obliquely in the media many times by non-experts, and when I tell people the idea they immediately “get it” and see the connection, even though they may never have thought about music in that way before. After all, it is a scientific fact that many passerine birds use music to stake out territory. But although it seems obvious, scientific treatments of this idea applied to humans are quite rare and have never been developed to the level you will find here.

That is possibly because there is not as much controlled experimental data as one would want as an academic. This field of inquiry is derived from a wide range of diverse academic disciplines (social psychology, physiology, ethology, cultural studies, musi-

1 For an example in an academic journal making many of these arguments connecting music, territory and identity at a personal level (albeit in a stream of consciousness form), see Wise JM (2000). Home: Territory and Identity. Cultural Studies 14(2): 295–310.

2 Forstmeier W & Balsby TJS (2002). Why mated dusky warblers sing so much: territory guarding and male quality announcement. Behaviour 139, 89–111. Catchpole CK (1983). Variation in the song of the great reed warbler Acrocephalus arudinaceus in relation to mate attraction and territorial defence. Animal Behavior 31: 1217-1225.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.