Sports and music:
Boys like to run around and throw things.  Men like to act like they are boys.  Lots of us like to watch other people exert themselves.  So having people watch sports seems inevitable.  Business people look for an opportunity to make money and money can be shaken out of almost any situation where large numbers gather regularly, so professional sports seem inevitable.

Enter the city and its need. 

If I want to build a gas station, I expect the city to have regulations and taxes that I must fulfill and the best I can hope for is that the city does not make it impossible.  If I want to open a thousand gas stations, things change only a little.  The city will be interested, but it will be clear that my gas stations will have to make money themselves.  City taxes will not support them, despite the fact that their presence may be a practical advantage to a large number of citizens.  But if I offer to bring in a major sports team, then the city is like a puppy whining, rolling on its back wiggling and wagging its tail.  I can probably get substantial support in any form I need.

There are those who say that organized sports are a substitute for war, and that we have an instinct for war, which would explain the popularity of sports.  That won’t work for a couple of reasons.  First, war is not an instinct in humans.  Quite possibly hostility to those who are different is an instinct.  We will look into that another time.  But organized war with standing armies and uniforms and fortifications are no instinct.  It is clear that for most of the time humans have been around there have been none of the artifacts like shields and insignia that war demands.  Second, if there were an instinct for war that was being satisfied by sports, then sports should not require public support; the very popularity of sports should make them self supporting.  Of course there is a problem with the problem.  Wars are supported by public taxes, so maybe that is why sports are too.   I see no clear answer for the issue.  I truly hope there is no such instinct. 

There was a time when central governments played a far smaller role in the lives of the majority of citizens.  Most people could take the attitude that urban life was just not that important.  But given the occurrence of war and the presence or threat of the presence of marauding armies looting the countryside, urban affairs seem more important even if not desirable. 

At all events, boys running around throwing things to each other has gone from an innocent amusement to a significant political issue.  Cities provide substantial support to professional sports.  That is money that has been taken by force of law from the payers of taxes.  The reason that public servants give for spending public money is clear.  They say that it is important to have a good athletic team in a city because that attracts business.  Big companies find it easier to get their executives to move to a city that has a good team.  So the business of professional sports becomes the business of recruiting people to the city.

There was a time when recruitment consisted of getting people to move in from the countryside.  But the countryside is now so depleted of population at least in the United States that there is little more to be gained that way.  When the big fish have eaten all the little fish, then they start to eat each other.  I think I read that in a short story about cities once.  It is not sufficient any longer to draw in farmers.  The cities lure businesses, and thus jobs and people to fill the jobs from other cities. 

Another organized activity that cities hijack into their recruitment scheme is music.  Music long antedates the dominance of cities.  There even seem to be Neanderthal flutes from 50,000 BC(, and it has been suggested that cave paintings were made in places where the acoustics were suitable.  Where the cities come in is with the assembly of massed musicians.  The symphony orchestra is the prime example.  At the University of Florida, one of the events of the homecoming celebration was the Massed Bands.  There was a parade with bands from all over the state, and that night at the pep rally, they all gathered on the field at the stadium and played together.  It may still happen.  From my memory it was impressive but really pretty awful.  The conductor would make a gesture and the whole field of musicians would each play their own note.  They played simultaneously, but since the time for sound to travel the distance of a football field is relatively long compared with the duration of a note, the notes all tended to run together.  My father, who had a better ear than I, said you could hear the wave of each individual note sweeping across the sea of musicians.  All right, duplicate that in your little cluster of huts.

Music seems universal, but musical taste varies.  I suspect there have been three stages in the evolution of music.  For simplicity I shall not consider sacred music.  At the earliest stage, music was simply enjoyed.  It would bring small groups together to make music together or listen to the effort of one or a few musicians. 

At a later stage, when communities were larger and closer together, tastes developed.  Music was used to please the members of the community to the exclusion of other people.  This would have resulted in an increase in the fertility of both sides of the divide by reducing social contact between groups. 

In the third stage, the city adopted music as a way to bring people back together again.  A large, ambitious performance was to be enjoyed by all and to surpass in its impact anything that could be accomplished with limited resources.  This was to persuade people that pooling the contributions of an enormous number of people could accomplish things that could be done no other way.

In the end, you found all three functions of music operating at the same time.  I suppose if you were clever enough you could imagine all three going on in the same performance. 

Music is only an example of a number of human activities that can follow the same logic.  Food, jokes, poetry, clothing styles, personal decoration, art, accent, games, drama, dance, fairs and so forth all can serve either to draw people into community or define the margins of community.  The interplay has added enormously to the interest of our lives. 

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