A young chimpanzee swinging from a tree

A young chimpanzee swinging from a tree

Abeselom Zerit/Alamy

Our primate ancestors might have become “protomusical” to advertise their ability to perform death-defying leaps from tree to tree.

Why humans make and appreciate music is an evolutionary mystery. “Music is a hugely important part of our lives and often involves powerful emotions,” says Edward Hagen at Washington State University. But he says we still don’t fully understand why it has this hold over us.

David Schruth at the University of Washington and his colleagues have a new explanation. They say the roots of human music can be traced …