Further Studies ...
Sorry, Bill*: more evidence has surfaced that music was part of the modern human cultural world from early on. Last week Nature published an online article about the discovery of "the oldest instrument in the world," a flute made from griffon vulture bone. It dates to 35,000 years before the present. Other flutes made from mammoth ivory were retrieved from the same site, Hohle Fels Cave in the hills west of Ulm, in southwestern Germany.
The AFP article also mentions the possibility that our cousins the Neanderthals made music as well, though it doesn't specifically mention the Divje Babe flute, which is ~10000 years older than the newly discovered instruments, but is often dismissed by paleontologists who hold that its finger holes were created by "a carnivore's bite."
Sometimes astrology can be perilous. (via Kos)
Update: The New York Times has an article by John Noble Wilford about the new finds , and John Hawks now has a post up on the flutes from Hohle Fels Cave as well. Hawks provides these details from the original Nature publication about the making of the ivory flutes:
The technology for making an ivory flute is much more complicated than that for making a flute from a bird bone. It requires forming the rough shape along the long axis of a naturally curved piece of mammoth ivory, splitting it open at the interface of the cementum and dentine or along one of the other bedding plains in the ivory, carefully hollowing out the halves, carving the holes and then rejoining the halves of the flute with air-tight seals along the seams that connected the halves of the flute.
Nicholas J. Conard of the University of Tübingen, in Germany, and his colleagues, who made the finds, believe that these flutes establish that this early European culture had already developed an actual musical tradition. Similar flutes have been discovered at nearby caves also occupied by early modern humans.
August 1, 2009: Updated again to replace the link to the AP article the post originally cited, no longer online, with a link to an Agence France-Presse article, which is.
* A little dig at Bill Knott, who doesn't much care for music. More here.
Update: Note that Bill has now moved his blog (it's now here), and deleted all the content at his previous site; the links to that content in the posts I've linked to here are thus quite dead. One of these days maybe I'll go through the new blog to see if he's re-posted any of his old material. In the meantime, I'll leave that task, Dear Reader, to you.
Photo: "Professor Nicholas Conard of the University in Tuebingen shows a flute during a press conference in Tuebingen, southern Germany, on Wednesday, June 24, 2009." AP Photo.