Origination Of Music

DARWIN’S theory states that music had its – starting point "in the sounds made by the half-human progenitors of man during the season of courtship" seems for many reasons to be scarce and flawed. A much more conceivable explanation, it seems to me, is to be found in the theory of Theophrastus, in which the origin of music is featured to the whole range of human emotion.

When an animal sheers a cry of joy or pain it articulates its emotions in more or less clear-cut tones; and at some remote period of the earth’s history all primeval mankind must have expressed its emotions in much the same manner. When this inarticulate speech developed into the use of confident sounds as symbols for emotions – emotions that or else would have been expressed by the natural sounds juncture by them —then we have the beginnings of speech as distinguished from music, which is still the universal language. In other words, thinker development begins with articulate speech, leaving music for the phrase of the emotions.

To be a sign of the sounds used to express emotion, if I may so put it, is to weaken that expression, and it would naturally be the strongest emotion that would first feel the inadequacy of the new-found speech. Now which is the mankind’s strongest emotion? Even in the nineteenth century Goethe could say, "’Tis fear that constitutes the god-like in man." Undoubtedly before the Christian era the soul of mankind had its roots in fear. In our superstition we were like children beneath a great tree of which the upper part was as a fuzzy and mesmerizing mystery, but the roots holding it firmly to the ground were tangible, palpable facts.

The primordial savage, looking at the world subjectively, was merely part of it. He might love, hate, threaten, kill, if he willed; every other creature could do the same. But the wind was a great spirit to him; lightning and thunder endangered him as they (lid the rest of the world; the flood would destroy him as ruthlessly as it tore the trees asunder. The elements were breathing powers that had nothing in common with him; for what the brains cannot explain the power of imagination magnifies.

Fear, then, was the burly emotion. Therefore assisting aids to express and cause fear were necessary when the speech symbols for fear, drifting further and further away from expressing the actual thing, became words, and words were inadequate to express and cause fear. In that formless groping for sound symbols which would cause and express fear far better than mere words, we have the beginning of what is gradually to develop into music.

We all know that savage nations convoy their dances by striking one object with another, sometimes by a jangling of stones, the pounding of wood, or perhaps the clashing of stone spearheads against wooden shields (a custom which extended until the time when shields and spears were discarded), meaning thus to express something that words cannot. This meaning altered naturally from its original one of being the simple expression of fear to that of welcoming a chieftain; and, if one wishes to push the theory to excess, we may still see a shadowy nostalgia of it in the manner in which the violinists of an orchestra applaud an honored guest — perchance some famous virtuoso — at one of our symphony concerts by striking the backs of their violins with their bends.

To go back to the savages. While this clashing of one object against another could not be called as the beginning of music, and while it could not be said to originate a musical instrument, it did, nonetheless, bring into existence music’s greatest prop, rhythm, an ally without which music would seem to be impossible. Suffice it to say that the sense of rhythm is highly urbanized even among those savage tribes which stand the lowest in the scale of civilization to-day, for instance, the Andaman Islanders, of whom I shall speak later; the same may be said of the Tierra del Fuegians and the now extinct aborigines of Tasmania; it is the same with the Semangs of the Malay Peninsula, the Ajitas of the Philippines, and the savages inhabiting the interior of Borneo.

Up to this point it is reasonable to assume that primordial man looked upon the world purely subjectively. He considered himself merely a unit in the world, and felt on a plane with the other creatures dwelling it. But from the moment he had invented the first musical instrument, the drum, he had created impressive outside of nature, a voice that to himself and to all other living creatures was elusive, an idol that spoke when it was touched, some-thing that he could call into life, something that shared the supernatural in common with the elements. A God had come to live with man, and thus was unfolded the first leaf in that venerable tree of life which we call religion.

Man now began to feel himself something apart from the world, and to look at it impartially instead of intuitively.

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