In conversation on the 23 February 1997, in Kyoto, I observed that cultural forms such as singing and dancing were likely to become widely employed because they registered the health of the creators or performers, particularly the latter. To perform a pre-set dance or to sing requires a healthy nervous system and general health. It is, after all, quite easy to tell from a person’s speech when they are mentally disturbed or retarded, and the movements of such people are also a strong indication.
The friends to whom I was speaking replied that this was all very well, but the rhythm was not much present in Japanese literature, and dancing was itself rather rare, particularly of the kind I mentioned, male and female partners moving together. Feebly I observed that enka, the Japanese blues, seemed quite rhythmic to me, and Yukio then said that of course it was, because it was based on folk-song, and much Japanese folk song, particularly that from Okinawa, was very heavily rhythmical.
How interesting it would be, I remarked, to know if the Okinawans had allowed women a considerable degree of sexual freedom, in choosing mates and lovers. Yukio said that of course this was quite true, indeed that there were festivals in which males would sing or perform in the fields and women would choose a suitable partner with whom to step aside.
This led me to the hypothesis that both singing and dancing will probably be strongly associated with periods when women are relatively free to choose mates. Moreover, singing and dancing will be rhythmical in relation to the degree of that freedom, precisely because the more freedom women can exercise the more important it is that young men can demonstrate health, and rhythmic forms are well formed for this registration. It is possible that other aspects of the forms will also vary for this reason. I predict therefore that cultural material of higher status will tend to move away from forms that register health, since high status power groups tend to be male dominated and thus also tend to restrict female choice.
John William Waterhouse, "A Tale from the Decameron", 1916.
That is to say: freedom of female choice leads to cultural forms which register the health and mate value of the creator or performer. Restrictions on female freedom will thus be associated with cultural forms which do not register these matters. Puritan England, for example, was male dominated, and there was little or no public singing, dancing, or music-making. The same might be noted of Islam. Church music in England is also notoriously monotonous during the 17th century.
The link between rock music and sexual freedom is so obvious that it hardly needs comment, and the present thesis offers some degree of explanation; it offers, indeed, a sidelight on the otherwise puzzling fact that the lyrics of sexually unrestricted rock music should be so formally conservative. No vers libre for the libertines.
We can further wonder whether there other differences in cultural form arise and stabilise when competition between females is high relative to competition between males. Women will always and to some degree be in the position of competing, and the affect on cultural forms would be worth investigation.
Finally, for now, we can explain why men of high status and wealth are such reluctant singers and dancers. Such men already possess high apparent mate value; they have no reason to abandon their hard-won high-ground, and risk all by accepting or provoking a challenge on a fresh and level turf where they may find themselves at a disadvantage.