It is easy for me to imagine prehistoric man imitating the sounds heard in nature and enjoying the musical qualities produced when harmonizing
multiple sounds. I can picture early man being fascinated by the sound of a stick hitting a hollow log, and the changing pitch achieved by striking
that log in different places. I wouldn't be surprised if percussion was the first non-vocal music. During long winter nights, assuming security was
not an issue, I imagine a chorus of percussion instruments providing hours of entertainment.
Well, you can see that any Friday or Saturday night round here, when the sales reps and the accountants are loosening up after a hard week's graft.
The traditional music of my country is the music of drums. This isn't Africa, by the way, but South Asia.
I like to remember that prehistoric humans were just like us. They lacked the broad education and history of ideas we have access to, but that
weren't apes or simpletons. They were just as capable of sophisticated thought and behaviour as ourselves. Their artefacts were not crude and
primitive; they were ingeniously constructed and painstakingly finished, within the limits imposed by the materials and processes they had access
It is unnecessary to think of their music as being simple and primitive. The discoveries you speak of (identifying things that made pleasing and
variable sounds, harnessing the power of rhythm) were probably made by our proto-human ancestors, not by Homo sapiens. The people who executed
the cave paintings at Lascaux and elsewhere had music; we know this because such paintings are often found in the most reverberant chambers, places
where sound would hang in the air and resonate. This suggests (to me, at least) that they knew how to sing in harmony. Bone flutes made by early
humans have been found, and we can tell by the spacing of the holes what scales they used. They had melody as well as harmony, and of course they had
rhythm. They had the whole nine yards.
The idea that ancient music had to be primitive is a bit like the idea that African music has to be primitive – a fallacy founded on anachronism and
cultural misunderstanding. The videos below are examples of music from well-established African musical traditions. They are anything but
This man is a griot, a traditional praise singer, hired by chiefs and other rich people to play at feasts and literally sing the host's
praises. The honour is passed from generation to generation within single families. The instrument he is playing is a kora, an African harp which is
real virtuoso instrument.
Here's another famous kora virtuoso, whose music is a fusion of traditional West African and Western elements, including jazz and flamenco:
This one takes a little patience to watch. It's a demonstration of how polyrhythms are constructed from interlocking fragments of rhythm. This kind
of rhythmic sophistication was unknown in Western music until very recently.
They might even believe the "music" could have even contributed to their security by warding off danger. It would certainly have been
Yes, just as people fifty years ago were said to whistle when they walked past graveyards at night. I'm sure music served the same needs with our
ancestors that it serves with us.
I once heard that Pink Floyd took their name from blues musicians but don't know if that is true.
Pink Anderson and Eddie Floyd.
I've been trying to link this guitar master with MS but have been unable to. However he is considered one of the more influential guitarist of
Lightnin' was probably the most accomplished Delta blues guitarist after Robert Johnson, but he was from Texas, not Mississippi. You can't connect
all American music with Mississippi. I noticed a Dick Dale video was posted earlier; Dale is a Lebanese-American from Massachusetts who lived
most of his life in California; his music didn't much to do with Mississippi, apart from the odd blues chord progression.
It's fair to say that the Mississippi valley (not the state itself) is the heartland of American music. Louisiana gave the world ragtime,
jazz, Cajun music and more; Mississippi is the home of the Delta blues. Tennessee has Memphis and Nashville, respectively famous for rock 'n' roll
and country. Gospel is all over the South. Alabama has Muscle Shoals, the Five Blind Boys, the Allman Brothers and above all, W.C. Handy. Illinois has
Chicago, home of the urban, electric blues and R 'n' B. Even Minnesota up north gets into the picture with none other than Bob Dylan.
Not to put the state of Mississippi down, but I think it's really something in the water...
Thank you for taking the time to make that informative post.
And yes I was thinking of proto-humans when I said primitive man. Please excuse me for not being more concise.
After seeing demonstrations of cymatics, I imagine proto-humans stumbling across this effect rather early on.
When I was a preteen, my friends and i discovered that we could make a tone with our voices and get some intense effects. One kid would start out,
making a tone with his voice then another kid would join in a few seconds later, then another and so on. We took turns inhaling and the result was a
continuous tone that would last as long as we were able to keep it up. The reason we were fascinated with this practice is because of a very obvious
sensation that we all experienced. If we played with the tone long enough, we would find a "sweet spot" and our hair would stand up and we all got
chill bumps. We would sustain this for as long a possible then burst out in laughter. For a bunch of 12-year-olds camping out in the woods, this was
pure magic. As far as I can remember, no one taught us this trick.
I had completely forgotten about this until I saw demonstrations of cymatics.
I've heard theories about pre-language man being psychic, and spoken language was the beginning of the end for that ability. I think it was William
Burroughs who said "language is a disease", he may have been referring to this effect. As far as "psychic" goes, I'm not willing to make that leap
just yet, but I'm sure there was a time when early man was tuned into body language to a degree that could be considered psychic by today's standards.
And not only visual ques but also auditory ques as well.
I wonder if the origins of music were more like an early technology for creating some sort of sonic "sorcery" if you will, as opposed to purely
entertainment. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on cymatcs.
About the Dick Dale post.
Although there are plenty of people who are not familiar with surf music or the modern incarnation known as surf punk, there is a rapidly growing
movement here in New Orleans. There is a college radio station here and the most popular show is called "The Storm-surge of Reverb" . It airs Mondays
from 4 till 6 U.S.central time.
Of course they stream live so give it a listen if you like surf/surf punk. It is the most popular 2 hours of radio in this city at this time.
We also have a radio station that plays primarily New Orleans based artist, past and present.
They are a community sponsored station so there are no commercials. They claim to be the most popular station on the internet although I have no idea
how you would confirm such a claim. Non-the-less they are a treasure trove of traditional local music.
Thanks again for the info and videos.
edit on 18-8-2012 by tanda7 because: (no reason given)
edit on 18-8-2012 by tanda7 because: (no reason
edit on 18-8-2012 by tanda7 because: (no reason given)
I'm sure you're right about Pink Floyd. My information was from memory – probably an old Melody Maker article or something from a book.
By the way, that gooseflesh thing is quite common when singing harmony. If the voices blend just right it has that effect. I don't think anyone knows
exactly why it happens.
I'm not sure what you mean by cymatics. To me, the word means the study of acoustic vibrations by making them visible. It is a fairly minor part of
acoustics, a branch of physics I am slightly familiar with. I think you may be giving the word a different meaning.
edit on 18/8/12 by Astyanax because: of gooseflesh and cymatics.
Hearing is an astonishingly complex sense; your organ of Corti does an immense amount of data processing before the signals from your ears even reach
your brain. Nobody understands how it works.
Music is even more complex and mysterious; frankly, we have no idea how it has the effects it does, or even what it is. We speak glibly of melody,
harmony, rhythm, timbre and phrasing; in fact, those are only the obvious attributes. Judging by what people get up to in recording studios, where one
can spend days getting a drum sound just so, these are only a fraction of the elements that go into recognizing, responding to and 'understanding' a
piece of music.
I had a little google since my earlier post and have learnt that cymatics has a meaning supplementary to the one I'm familiar with; a kind of
medical/physiological explanatory system based on some hypothetical ideas about sound. Sadly, I don't think anyone – not even the
psychoacousticians and acoustic physicists who taught me at university – actually knows enough about what music is and how humans react to it to be
putting forward theories about it just now.
Our state of knowledge on the subject is far too primitive for us to claim any kind of understanding. This creates an opening for speculative
explanations that are not falsifiable or based in proper research. You'll find many of these ideas on ATS – all kinds of stuff about harmonic
progressions and golden ratios and tritones and Platonic solids and who knows what.
Frankly, it's all a bit crazy. Best to reject these speculative ideas, however inspired they may seem, and wait until we know enough to make properly
informed, testable hypotheses. With neural scanning and other techniques improving by the day, it shouldn't be long.
I did a little google myself and I see that I am misusing the word. Cymatics refers to the study of sound vibration by creating a visual model, where
I'm trying to reference the results, not the study itself.
If cymatics has shown us these results, it seems a small leap to imagine these effects on an organic subject. The study of microbiology shows us that
cells have antenna that respond to both chemical stimulus and vibrations.
But I agree, speculation, especially the type often expressed on this website is rarely useful.
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