Gary Tomlinson is John Hay Whitney Professor of Music and Humanities at Yale University and Director of the Whitney Humanities Center there. He is a musicologist long committed to multidisciplinary exploration, and his teaching, lecturing, and research have ranged across a diverse set of interests. Central among these have been traditions of European classical music, including the history of opera and early-modern musical thought and practice; but his essays and books embrace such other topics as the music of indigenous American societies, jazz, cultural and anthropological theory, the philosophy of history, affect theory, and human evolution. His latest research, joining humanistic theory, archaeology, and evolutionary science, investigates the role of cultural forces in the formation of modern humanity. It has led to two books: A Million Years of Music: The Emergence of Human Modernity (Zone, 2015) and Culture and the Course of Human Evolution (Chicago, in press).
To understand these relations of culture, technology, and semiosis is to begin to fashion a model of the final stages of human emergence. Hominin evolution from the outset combined culture and biology...