Monday, September 17, 2012

The First Musicians

I'm part of a group on Facebook called Declare Yourself: 30 Days of Daily Creativity and for the month of September I have been posting a "musical portrait" each day. Over time, I will be sharing them here as well. I felt it was only appropriate to start with one called The First Musicians.

My nephew had his bar mitzvah earlier this month. It was a beautiful event and the music was very well done - folk/middle eastern/Jewish melodies played on guitar, violin and doumbek (a hand drum). The rabbi talked about one song being derived from the prayer the Jews chanted while crossing the Red Sea. It was a powerful image and it threw my mind back to thoughts I've had about the creation of music. Our very ancient ancestors lived in a world where the struggle for survival was paramount. The fact that they took the time to create instruments and invent a musical language - some say it was the first language - is a reminder of how central music is to the existence of humans from our earliest days. Pictured is a 40,000 year old flute, carved with stunning skill from the leg bone of a bird - presented here in tribute and gratitude to the first musicians.

This photo comes from a story on NBC News. The great film director Werner Herzog seems to share my affection and fascination with our ancestors, as shown in his wonderful film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (see it in 3D if you can). Although it is impossible to know what their music sounded like, this clip shows that the flute is capable of being played in tonalities that are instantly recognizable.

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