Monday, August 17, 2009

Music music music

How much influence does music have on a person's life? Is it true that "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast," as English poet, William Congree maintains? If the The Three Tenors and Ella Fitzgerald had decided on different professions would we be a less gentle peopole? Might it be possible to judge someones character by how he reacts to music?
William Shakespeare thought so and wrote the following.
The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sound, is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; the motives of his spirit are dull as night, and his affections dark as Erebus; let no such man be trusted.
No minced words there; that's about as opinionated as it gets; even more so when you consider that Erebus, in Greek mythology, was a gloomy part of the underworld on the way to Hades.
In this age of information we are challenged with some new conclusions on the subject of music. Shakespeare could well be proven right in the near future. Those studying the possibilities have come to believe it may be a much stronger inherent force than we once thought. So strong, in fact, that those without the desire to make music might even be termed abnormal.
Those of us who ponder such things may begin any such study by first looking to our ancient, ancestral, musical roots. Did we have any? Or, did the tunes come later?
A great number of us may consider early man/woman as musically deprived, but according to a National Geographic news report dated January 2001, that is not so. Finely crafted flutes made from bone have been found at some of the archeological digs covering the most ancient periods. These were not simple, single-hole whistles, but actual instruments.
It seems there has been a song in most every heart practically since time began, and if the so-called experts are to be believed, that doesn't mean just the human heart either. Animals are included as potential composers.
Through the fairly new, but, quickly evolving fields of bio-musicology and animal communication research, unique ideas are coming to the fore. They are asking us to consider the similarities between certain human and animal sounds and the possible innate desire of animals to create music that the similarities suggest. (There are also other voices questioning these folks sanity, and at least one reporter wondering if these, "sounds" are merely biological functions better suited to locker room jokes.)
Science has shifted into high gear in the bio-musicology community, wondering if some rhythms, patterns and tones might be instinctive to animals as well as humans. Could this point to a shared inherent knowledge of music that has been around forever, and perhaps with many more implications than we dream?
Let's start with birds and their, 'songs." We can hear definite melodies there. It seems to fit perfectly with some of our own musical renditions. Mozart's Piano Concerto in G major actually has a passage that he wrote to match the song of a starling he kept. However, this century's interests are concentrated in the throats, vocal chords and other parts of more uncommon, "musicians."
We are being asked to hesitate before defining music in the old, traditional ways. Some followers of this new thought have even suggested it was animals trilling the very first compositions, not humans.
Merchandisers are on top of it, and albums of whale, dolphin, and wolf song are everywhere. Promoters are keeping an ear out for new groups every day.
The croak,yap, grunt and howl are being given a thoughtful listen and should--we are told--be viewed as a great melodic storehouse. Whoever composed, "Old MacDonald," was evidently ahead of his time.
We find, in, "Science News" that the alliance between biologists and musicologists-biomusicology--has come to life for one express purpose, to ask and answer the question...what is music?
And we thought we had that one figured out. But, the great thinkers have warned us, "Just when you figure out the question, they change the answer...or words to that effect.
Many of us have remained in the dark on this new study, feeling deceptively certain that if we were asked we could at least give a fair definition of the word, "music." And, if all else failed we felt the inquisitor could be answered if we warbled a few bars of, "The Hills are Alive With the Sound of....well, you know.
Quite a bit of craziness, don't you think?
To be serious, I believe that music is much more than we think it is. I can just imagine Milky Way Orchestra's rolling through outer space with beauty we can't yet imagine...will we ever? I think so.
Here is a little story about one of my grandson' a teenager. I used to baby-sit him and his mom dropped him off at my house very early. He wasn't ready yet to start his day and neither was I so I cuddled up on the couch with his little back up against my chest. He had quite a habit of humming...I mean he hummed pretty steady until he was about 4 or 5. One particular morning as he was humming quietly, I found a note to harmonize with the note he was humming. The minute I hit that note he stopped suddenly but didn't more. He had just experienced a harmonic, "buzz." I was silent and then he softly began to hum the same note he had been humming before. He was very pleased and we kept up our little acapella duet for some time.
He now plays guitar and writes music and sings
It was a truly magic moment for me and I think for him too.
He's the grandson in this post....not a good picture but the only one I could rustle up in a hurry. (The girl is Vanessa, She was on my blog with a high school graduation picture last week.) Love those kids!!!!


  1. As I was reading this the coyotes are howling outside and they sound like beautiful, but foreign music. They do sound very much as if this is music to them. How can one not say birds make music?

    I can hardly believe that little guy is in his teens now...where oh where has the time gone?

  2. Audrey, I love music. We couln't afford lessons when I was a kid; I made up for it with my own family. Piano, guitar, violin, dulcimer; they play all.
    Music can very much effect my mood, so I've learned to temper my moods with music. As music can calm the beast so can it calm the beast in me.