Thursday, May 30, 2013

The hills are alive, with the sound of music...

Sound is all around us.

From the moment of our birth we are immersed in and join with the vibration of our world. It is a blessing. Or is it? The brain is selective in reasoning and choosing where its attention is placed because if not, we would quickly go crazy in the unlimited stimulation of our senses. It makes for an interesting exercise or meditation to stop for a moment and directly think about thinking: "This moment, what do I hear, or see, or smell, touch, taste, and feel?" Pick one and epistemize! (If you look this word up in the dictionary--epistemology--you'll see I've been a bit creative with the definition.) Everything is a noisemaker, no matter how quiet. We come out of the womb and the sound of our precious air passing through our vocal chords informs us and others that we have and can use our uniqueness to communicate with our environment. The mastery of this sound making sense joins consciously or not with the call of life's myriad questions, why are we here? What is our destiny? How do we manipulate these tools to bring pleasure and reason to ourselves and others?

Since the birth of man, back in the mists of antiquity, deep in the heart of Africa, we have used sound to discover ourselves and share with our tribes. If we travel back in time speculatively perhaps 30, 60, 100,000    years, the fact that we can create word sounds at all is a mouthful. Just try and have a conversation with man's best friend, the dog. Most probably we spoke with clicks, pops and other emotionally-related sounds that morphed in time into recognizable Subject, Verb, Object (S.V.O) combinations. Some linguists debate this order which might translate into something like this: The woman eats an elephant. Woman subject, eats the verb, and elephant, the object. Wait a minute! What does this have to do with music, you ask? Hold that thought... It could make sense in some way to switch this order: The elephant eats a woman. but nevertheless sound order brings with it meaning and this can be very critical in the order of things. Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Linguists claim that just about all living and dead languages can be traced to this SVO combination. Now! It doesn't take such a big stretch to see music, our attempt to add rhythm to a world of drudgery, pain, pleasure, and the passing on of history without yet a written form. Perhaps it began simply as a call and response system. "Can you hear me?" "Yes I can." "I am speaking." "I am listening." "This is what I have learned." "We are listening and hearing." "This is how I'm feeling today." "We are hearing and appreciating." "Dinner is running over there." "OK, let's go after it!"

Let's move forward in time and 100 men are moving a 50-ton rectangular carved stone up an incline to place it in perfect position next to and above its mate: Call- "This huge stone is hard to move." Response-"This huge stone is hard to move." Call- "Push on 3 and it'll be in the groove...1,2,3, push!" Hey! Wait a minute. Add a few lines, change the rhythm and you get: "I don't know why I have to push these heavy stones? No, I don't know why I have to push these heavy stones? I'm pushin' em all day long now, and I'm feelin' it in my bones." This is sounding suspiciously close to a blues riff, eh?! As time progressed and man moved from a hunter gatherer society to that of agricultural, working in the fields tilling and toiling, it became natural to use our musical skills to ease the passing of time and share camaraderie. We find this rhythmic call and response today in many church services and in our music, particularly. Let's bring this all back to the blues after all, in the defined format of "field hollers" and the standard by which we hear these musical patterns expressed. For a fascinating and much more detailed description of how the blues musical pattern is expressed lyrically and in chord structure, please check out this link to hear some samples from Wikipedia. Is this fun or what?! Feel free to comment, correct, add, or muse. James Taggart, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology and History at Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania wrote, "Humans have the ability to share experience through narratives that shape an emotional and cognitive understanding of our world, and empathy is one of the many complicated social and psychological processes shaped by that exchange." Our music and specifically the blues reinforces that social empathy that runs deep in humanity and is the glue that binds us to each other through time.

1 comment:

  1. My interest in the blues builds with each of these marvelous posts! I feel the joy and the angst. Great story-telling!