May 1, 2009

Rhythm & Music: Gifts of story and action

I've been thinking about music lately because I spend so much time practicing the guitar and listening to music. I used to let the music flow over me and I was inspired by the song, the lyrics, the beat, the melody. I couldn't really tell what was happening. Now that I've taken some lessons and start to understand more clearly the structure of music like the simple 8 measure verse or chorus. AABA or AABBAA or ABAB rhyming schemes and chord progressions like I IV V I or I IV V IV I now seem more obvious when I listen to the songs I like. 

Music experience like mine seems to mirror the flow of music in human evolution. We started out with simple stories, maybe told later with approving sounds of our cohorts. Or, stories told with a beating drum in the background. As musicians became more adept, tuned their instruments differently, or built new ones, stories & rhythms became more complex. 

As rhythms evolved our ability to hear them was enhanced. We could move to them more smoothly. Dance co-evolved with the rhythms. Our species grew stronger bodies, bigger brains and better prediction skills. 

Music really was a gift that keeps on giving. Finally, its only in the past hundred years that we have have widespread recording techniques so all the sounds that went down before the first sound recorders are lost forever! Those performances were written down at times but many are really lost, vibrating forever into the ether at the speed of sound but unavailable to us.

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