Before you read this article, please note that this is not a political blog. So when you read that some strict religious sects don’t allow music, this is not meant to ramp up anger among music lovers. I use this fact only to make a point, which you will read about in the article. Please do not leave any political comments in regard to this article. They will not be accepted or posted.
Let’s do an experiment. As you read this first paragraph, sit very still. Put your hand over your heart and feel your heartbeat. Or, you might find it easier to feel your pulse in your wrist. As you relax, your heartbeat will steady and might even slow down a bit. Now…put yourself into the brain of the very first musician on this planet: that very first human to make music. Look through his/her eyes. Listen with his/her ears. I’m not talking about the brain of Uncle Jethro who plays with his jug band on his front porch every Saturday night, nor am I referring to the brain of J.S. Bach who wrote incredibly beautiful and complex music, nor the brain of my hero, Bob Dylan. We are going back much, much further in time. You are the first musician on the planet, but you aren’t very smart yet. You can hunt. You can propagate your species, (no smarts required there). You can wrap yourself in animal fur to stay warm or to intimidate your enemies. And you can keep a burning fire going where you carefully carry it from one campsite to another. Other than that, you can’t do all that much. But you’re growing; sometimes you get antsy. You’re probably looking for another way to express yourself. You might be sitting on a rocky outcrop next to a gurgling brook. The meditative but chaotic gurgle magically–the brains of true musicians are magic–puts you into an organized state, with a mysterious, underlying rhythm giving this gurgling tapestry real structure. You idly pick up a stone, and you begin tapping the stone on another stone. At first, the tapping is random. That’s because that first musician has no fracking idea what s/he is doing yet. But soon, those random taps take on order. They seem to sound in synchronicity with the gurgling brook, just as if the chaotic smashing against each other of all those water molecules possesses its own organized mind. And as the tapping continues, the tapping takes on a definite rhythm. This rhythmic tapping is the beginning, the seed of all music. This music, as it grows and develops, will accompany soldiers into battle, it will soar grandly into the heavens as listeners and musicians alike find their spiritual way to enlightenment, it will accompany young lovers on the dance floor, it will capture the imaginations of people of all ages sitting around a campfire as they listen to their tribal folk singer spin fascinating stories of love and war accompanied by the simple beating of a stone, a stick, and eventually a beater on a drum. It will inspire, it will generate hate and love, it will shape our lives like no other power we know as it unleashes the meditative Pentatonic scale, unleashes specific tunes like This Land Is My Land, We Shall Overcome, Blowin’ In the Wind, Battle Hymn of the Republic, the French national anthem, God Save the Queen. And it most surely all began with one lone early human, tap, tap, tapping on a stone, just like the raven in Edgar Allen Poe’s like-named poem, “tap, tap, tapping at my door.”
Why do I think that first musician was a drummer? Because making a rhythmic tapping noise is the easiest and most intuitive road to making organized sound. Music is organized sound. Even non-rhythmic extemporaneous playing on the Native American flute with no discernable rhythm is organized sound. Music is woven into the fabric of our lives. Music is an integral part of the human condition. And yet, we find that very strict religious sects of many faiths expressly forbid music of any form. Those who worship with music will be excommunicated from the sect, or worse! And if you think this strictness is only indicative of nonwestern faiths, you would be so wrong. Strict branches of faiths familiar to us all have, at one time or another forbade music. (Some still do.) The early Protestant church was quite famous for this. In the very early days of Protestantism, the church fathers stripped their former Catholic churches of all they considered ornamental or unnecessary. Sculptures and paintings of images of Jesus, Mary, the apostles, you name it, were chucked right out the door. So was music! That beautiful sacred music that grew and developed in the Catholic Church was not allowed to be performed in these early Protestant churches. After all, the Protestants were revolting. To show this, they stripped their own houses of worship to little more than four walls and a pulpit for the preacher at the front. But, of course, as years passed, the good church fathers eventually saw the error of their ways and, in most churches, allowed music to return. That period of enlightenment eventually gave us rousing hymns and Christmas carols like A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Faith of Our Fathers, and Silent Night. And yet, there are still a few Christian sects here and there that frown on music in any church service. But most people, unless their church authorities scare them silly, will embrace music. Apparently these brave, intrepid souls live by the lyrics of that old novelty tune, “I don’t care what Mama don’t allow, gonna play my banjo anyhow!”
Why is music so powerful? Why is it nearly impossible, (unless the good church fathers own AK-47s and aren’t afraid to use them), to take music away from us? It’s nearly impossible because music is part of our DNA. This is not a casual statement on my part. Music is truly part of our DNA because our organic bodies have their own rhythms. At the cellular base of us, our cells vibrate at specific frequencies. We are humming with vibration! If you doubt this most scientific of scientific facts, go here–
The article behind the link talks of the specific frequencies of red blood cells in humans. An MIT research team is working towards being able to analyze red blood cells to determine the onset of specific diseases. Those specific frequencies, those rhythms, are already in us. We are born with them in us. We are rhythmic humans. Rhythm is coded into our DNA! So music can’t be taken from us because music has been in us since our conception in our mother’s womb. How dare those “misguided” church fathers even dare to take that from us! How dare they! Let them try! I don’t care what Mama don’t allow, gonna play my banjo anyhow! 😛