This essay originally appeared in Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 16(3): 273-296, 1993. You can now download it from my SSRN page.
ABSTRACT: Culture elaborates expressive forms by developing ever more differentiated control over patterns in the expressive medium. In Rank 1 culture (preliterate) music evolves through control over rhythm. Rank 2 culture (literacy) gains control over melodic structure while Rank 3 culture (Renaissance and after) adds harmonic elaboration to rhythm and melody. Within the twentieth century jazz has followed a similar course, with rhythmic elaboration coming first with traditional jazz, then melodic control emerging with swing, and harmonic control with bop. Both classical and jazz have much music straining beyond the limits of Rank 3 harmonic control, but no clear Rank 4 forms have yet evolved.