Imaginary music

Lorca says somewhere in some speech about the history of music that he thinks we sang before we spoke.  This is an utterly beautiful idea.  Could be true.  Could be why music is so much more powerful than speaking.

Somebody told me once that laughter is a remnant of our original language.  That’s even better.

Here’s some choral music from the villages of Ukraine that is probably ancient enough that it could sound like what you’d hear in a cave ten thousand years ago.  No offence to Ukrainian villagers — this is amazing music, I think, and I like the idea of our ancestors sounding like this while chatting about the weather.

Porushka by the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble

About Judd Trout

Judd Palmer is one of the Old Trouts.

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9 Responses to Imaginary music

  1. unnggg says:

    This Is a fantastic factoid, I especially like this idea paired with the a notion that early langauge was potentially just a serious of clicking noises made with the mouth…so its music and lyrics….Music…. scraping and tapping..with patterns of clicking…as the words….I can just imagine a caveman love song….

  2. Terminator E says:

    Scientists have reconstructed cavepeople songs. Basically, the cavepeople sang as they used flint tools to scrape meat off cave-rhino bones, and the vibration of the songs was minutely recorded in the scratches on the bones. They put the bones in a giant pile in the ukraine or somewhere, not to be discovered until modern times. The scientists used lasers to scan the scratches, then with computers they converted the contours into audio, filtered out background noise and pieced together seven different songs. At first the scientists thought there were ten different songs but they discovered that three were just reverse versions of the others, because some cavepeople were left-handed.

  3. Urvater says:

    Beautiful musical thoughts and references here! I’ve known (and known very well!) dogs who really love to sing along. When I was a kid, a dog named Sparky couldn’t hear me play my little pocket harmonica without joining in in loud, deeply felt, soulful harmonies. Another dog, Belle, was particularly moved to intense, quite beautiful vocalization, to a Red Army Chorus rendition I have of the Soviet National Anthem. She liked to sing along with other music as well. But the old Soviet number really grabbed her every time. That, and, of course, live vocal stuff. Group singing. That REALLY got her going! And, I live among coyotes. Sometimes they will answer a call. But not always. They have a busy agenda.

  4. Jimmy D says:

    I like the idea that we sang before we spoke. It makes me recall hearing an anthropologist suggest at a symposium on art and science that it is very possible that our earliest artistic expressions (singing, dancing, making funny faces) could have come from one of the first challenges to any family – prehistoric or modern – “What can we do to stop the baby from crying?”

    • petertrout says:

      Oh my god this is a great idea for a scene…quite wicked in fact…if this scene doesn’t make it into the show then the rest of the Trouts will have to make funny faces at me to stop me from crying

  5. Neandertaler says:

    Wow, thanks for that. I’d never even heard of this. The people involved in this all seem to be glowing when they talk about it. Makes me think of my dad, the only person to improvise harmonies to the intensely boring, monotonous hymns being sung in church. Though it embarrassed me but somehow also filled me with secret pride and joy. Something felt very right about his spontaneous, playful “weaving around” the common melody.

    It does sound like the Ukranian music, but also like some African singing. This rendition, for instance of one of my favourite tunes, “Shocholoza”:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va_QfpdZqcg&feature=related
    or this rousing version, which spills off a podium and becomes a party unlike any I’ve ever been to:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRtQGPvgdU8&feature=related

    Wouldn’t it be cool if a performance started with something like this, as a kind of warm-up to get the audience to shed its modern stiffness and rediscover the joy and abandonment of singing around a fire at night to ban evil spirits before stories are told and magic comes out… In Stratford-on-Avon, long ago, I once watched a performance of The Tempest. To my surprise, a recorded drumroll sounded before the show and the whole audience jumped up to sing “God Save the Queen”! It was very weird but it did seem to put everybody into a different mood before the curtain went up. That’s probably also why people sing anthems before sports games.

  6. Judd Trout says:

    Okay, woof, thank you so much for that. The second link, in particular, which I guess is a chunk of her film ‘Book of Days.’ It looks like it’s a bit of a personal tragedy that I haven’t seen that or heard of it. Ordering it right away.

    Communal singing and/or playing music is something I think we could use more of. I think it was a pretty central aspect of human culture for a long time, but now it’s been professionalized in some way so that people go to see other people do it. They can dance (although if you go to a live gig these days it seems like there isn’t much dancing going on anymore either), but actually making the music together doesn’t seem to happen. There’s always the slightly geeky urge to sing along or air-guitar when your favourite band comes on the radio, but everybody-in-the-village-getting-together-to-sing, not so much. Except at church, I guess.

    Reminds me of Sacred Harp music, an old choral tradition from the southern US; everybody sits facing each other and sings. No audience. Sounds weirdly like the Ukrainian stuff above. I heard about this from my friend Hugh, who does it.

    Check out this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHUfHNEZDPc (a trailer for a documentary about it)
    or this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJCC4Nrvvw0 (people singing it — see the incredible lyrics in a comment below)

    • petertrout says:

      I also agree that it would be cool to get the audience to do some choral grunting and chanting before the show…hilarious

  7. Neandertaler says:

    Makes me think of Meredith Monk’s “Dolmen Music” — especially her process, efforts to make music from a deep, playful source within:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5z9UVExVaI&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMFLct2laqw&feature=related