Nobody has told you this before, but our rationalistic STEM worldview originated in magical songs
Someone said that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
My old Music Ed. Professor, Dr. Charles H. Ball, often said that "we might be about something more important than we realize." It's now evident to me that he was right . . . thanks Ted!
Greece was the home of philosophy, science, and mathematics in the Western world. Mathematics is often referred to as the language of science. Scientific discoveries have originated in dreams and visions. Einstein had a dream in which he was riding a beam of light that went faster and faster and colors began to change. From that experience came his theory of relativity, a theory that can only be fully expressed in the language of math and numbers. It strikes me that music uses the language of symbols that could be thought of as a form of numbers. So which came first? Philosophy, science, mathematics , music? Time itself is a philosophical construct and occupies space in Einstein’s theory and music. And so on.
Hello Ted, do you plan to publish a physical book, and if so, do you have an anticipated release date and price ?
This unfolding book is extraordinary, and I do hope it is published as a physical text at some point. Have you seen the video Paul Simon released concerning the origin of his forthcoming Seven Psalms? The entire project is attributed by Simon to a series of powerful dreams.
A musician's role is to be a shaman. The only way many people can experience metaphysical states is through music. I consider it a big responsibility.
Lots of grist for the mill here Ted! I was reminded of a line in a song by Paulo Flores of Angola that says "we dance our traditions". I am sure that you are aware of the following. Your piece also brought to mind Asclepius and the healing temples, Asclepieia, where there were healing snakes. CG Jung, who interpreted more than a few dreams, had a stone at Bollingen carved with the Delphic oracle, "Called or not God is there." He referred to himself as a witch doctor. When one contemplates all of the theories, hymns et al, they all originate in the infinite matrix of the unconscious.
Is there a companion audio playlist? Spotify? YouTube, AppleMusic? Hopefully the traditionally published book with have an audio version with music?
This is fascinating to read and far beyond my knowledge, but touches on so many of my interests: music, philosophy, and natural healing.
“They always resist translation into printed text. Only hearing is believing.” .... reminds me of my favorite quote about music writing: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
Such a rich idea. Our state’s symphony is working with the area’s tribes on what they call the Lakota Music Project. The centrality of music to maintaining the Lakota / Dakota identity is very real. I hope you do put this all in a book at some point. It would be powerful to see our common humanity in such a way that we can link Socrates to Sitting Bull so directly. Ironic that the link needs to be rediscovered, huh?
Hexameters in ancient music. N. African: 1&2&3&4&5&6&. Iranian 123456 with accent on 1 & 4.
Ted Gioia's writing is fascinating. I'm surprised there was no mention of memory. Apart from music's magical qualities, it served as a memory device. The Greeks had papyrus, a definite improvement over say chiseling text into a piece of rock or earth. But until the printing press, making copies was a tedious affair. Much knowledge was transmitted orally, and there were many tricks to assist. Hexameter would be one of them, for that culture. So would repetition and rhymes. have the same today, although rap ain't my thing. Try memorizing the words to "Rapper's Delight" without the propulsion of the beat? I assume at some point poetry divorced itself from music somewhat, but we're always told to read it aloud with the proper cadence? The great lyricists choose words so each line has a certain flow into the previous and following?
Dreams. I just finished reading Robert Crumb's illustrated text of the Book of Genesis. Wanted to check it out before sending a copy to my niece who just wrapped up her first year at Tulane and quite talented at drawing. An old soul interested in great music from decades before like jazz unlike the vast majority of her age cohort. Dreams figure so prominently, especially in the figure of Joseph. Foundational even, as 1/4 of Genesis is devoted to Joseph's story. I'm not terribly familiar with the New Testament, but I don't recall any stories of dreams. Maybe Saul/Paul on the way to Damascus or something? Anyway, could this represent the shift away from the importance of dreams into something more "rational?" Even though personally I don't believe any of those religious stories?
The serendipity has been running so strong in my life recently, like reading this after finishing Crumb's book. One example after another. Makes me wonder, because I like to say I'm not into any woo-woo.
The songs of David, Koran, Moses and Asaph have more philosophy in them than any you described. Why skip over them?
I really enjoyed this chapter a lot. When I read the part on dactylic hexameter, a philosophical question of a different sort arose within my mind.
If I had a trillion fingers, would that make me a teradactyl?
I suppose I'll let the philosophers decide.
Thanks for this chapter of the book Ted! I was debating with myself whether to comment or not. I do not want to come across as someone who uses this fine space to promote my own work. I just want to share a song I recorded a couple of years ago because it fits the subject of this chapter. After reading a book by Jean-Paul Satre I tried to capture the essence of his philosophy (existentialism) in a 4.30 minute song called ‘Harvester in the desert’. I was inspired to do this after reading an interview with Guy Garvey of Elbow who said that when it comes to writing song lyrics he goes for niches. In other words he tries to address topics which usually are not the subject of pop or rock songs. I thought philosophy would be one of them. It turns out, after reading this chapter of your book, that this subject was commonplace in popular music before the written word. I guess I will have to look for a new niche :-)
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound? Just like the previous philosophical thought experiment you can ask whether a song is really a song if no one hears it. I hope you’ll enjoy my effort to put existentialism on music; thanks for listening. https://youtu.be/OTDmRgBsa1U
Great article Ted. Goes well with my "Daily Stoic" and the mission of my retirement. Make music.