Today in one of my classes we were discussing what music is for. Why do we have it? How did it develop? Which came first: speech or song?
I was reminded of the first episode of Michael Wood's The Story of India, which shows the ceremonial chants of Brahmins, which follow definite patterns, but don't resemble any existing human language or music. What it most closely resembles is bird song, and anthropologists speculate that these chants have been passed down unchanged since before the time of human speech. (This series is on Netflix instant view, and is well worth the time.)
Perhaps in its beginning, music served some sort of rudimentary communicative purpose, like the mating calls of birds or other animals, but once we developed language, rather than jettisoning music, we developed music of increasing complexity and diversity. Why? What is it good for? It doesn't shelter or feed the body. Music no longer serves any adaptive survival purpose, yet it's an integral part of every human culture. For me, it's a vital part of who I am.
Other arts may have begun solely as survival mechanisms. Take language. Being able to communicate, "The mammoth is two hundred yards east of us. Let's separate and close in on it from either side," made us more efficient hunters. Why did language develop beyond what was necessary for survival, to poetry, plays and novels?
The need to create and partake in beauty seems to be universal, whether it's the beauty of various art forms, the beauty of the natural world, the beauty of loving relationships, though beauty doesn't aid in the mechanical processes of the body. Perhaps this continual pull toward beauty is evidence that we were meant to do more than survive.