Monday, September 15, 2014
Guitars and networks
I have noted before that the evolutionary history of musical instruments is likely to be a reticulating network rather than being tree-like (Cornets: from a tree to a network). As another illustration of the pattern, we can consider the evolution over the past few centuries of the Spanish or flamenco guitar (taken from the Origem do nome Violão blog post).
This genealogy (with time proceeding from left to right) shows three basic characteristics that seem to be common in anthropological histories. First, there are multiple roots — in this case, three different instruments from the 16th century have provided input into the modern acoustic guitar. Second, there is an early history of reticulation, with ideas for new instrumentation being taken freely from among the existing instruments, in this case presumably in the search for better sound reproduction. Third, there is simple transformational evolution, with new models replacing the previous ones in popularity — for example, over the past 100 years the Spanish guitar has simply gotten larger (this is Cope's Rule.)