My parents are musicians. Alas, I have not been blessed with the same talents. But at least I truly appreciate how music can bring you to your feet, or to tears. It has inspired and captivated people – evidently for as long as people have existed. Humans have been writing music for millennia. The oldest notated compositions were discovered in present-day Syria and date back to 1400 BCE. This collection is called The Hurrian Songs and was probably played on a lyre 3,400 years ago.
But 40,000 years before those hymns were chiseled onto clay tablets, musicians made instruments. Gorgeous ancient ivory and bird bone flutes were recently found in Germany’s Geissen kloesterle Cave, and it’s interesting to note that while the Homo sapiens were carving mammoth tusks, Neanderthals were living in Europe too. Some postulate that the social networks formed by playing and sharing music probably helped expand the territories of the nascent Homo sapiens. This in turn could have led to the ultimate extinction of Neanderthals, who quietly disappeared around 30,000 years ago.
Why do humans love music? In his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Dr. Oliver Sacks describes the neurological reason.“Music works because it engages so many parts of the brain. Rhythm, actual or imagined, activates areas of the motor cortex, crucial in synchronizing and energizing movement. Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. It can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.”
He also points out that intense musical training has been proven to stimulate the development of specific parts of the brain, particularly the left hemisphere and the corpus callosum. Coroners can actually identify musicians simply by examining their brains.
Moods and Modalities
There are hundreds of musical genres, but they all begin with a basic framework of notes, better known as a scale. Historically, different cultures used different scales. The five-note, or pentatonic scale predominated in Asia, while Western music employed a seven-tone diatonic scale which is arranged into major and minor modalities. Scales that involve microtones and semitones also exist, and are often used in Middle Eastern music. (This can involve a substantial amount of vocal ornamentation — sliding up and down the scale, actually singing in between the notes.)
See if you can match the musical style with its country: Sh my 1) An original American musical form Jazz 2) Classical Indian subcontinent music Raga 3) Classical Buddhist chant in Japan Answers:
A –3: Sh my originated in India, moved to China, and became an independent classical chanting tradition with Japanese Buddhist monks. Chanting is common in many belief systems, ranging from Hebrew chants and Hindu mantras to Gregorian chant.
B –1: Called the backbone of American music, jazz has huge appeal worldwide. So when Qatar Airways was looking for a quintessential American music program to support, they selected Jazz at Lincoln Center. It’s a sophisticated, visible NewYork venue – and the perfect place to enjoy legendary performance artists or attend Swing University.
C –2: Raga is a Sanskrit word which means “color”or “passion.” A raga is basically a melodic framework which supports a good bit of improvisation. Specific ragas invoke certain moods, or traditionally were associated with seasons of the year or times of day. A raga can create a powerful atmosphere, and some ancient ragas were used to invoke rain or fire.
Respect the rest
What is one of the most difficult things for a student to learn about music? According to Dawn Stevens, master faculty member at The Wilmington Music School and director of music at Newtown Square Presbyterian Church, it is to respect the rest (a rest is an interval of silence in music).“There is something beautiful about letting the silence speak within the piece.You want to allow that sound between the notes to be as loved as the music itself.”
In case your knowledge of rests is rusty, these symbols correlate to the length of each pause.
Yes, there is such a thing as a hemisemidemiquaver rest. Of course, for each rest, there is a comparable note of the same length. In a lively mood? Try this version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s“Flight of the Bumblebee:”youtube.com/watch?v=6QV1RGMLUKE
Or if you prefer to bring your blood pressure down, relax to some slow waves of sound like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Think soothing, calm, soft music.You are feeling sleepy… WIN A FREE BOOK! CONTEST: What’s your Cultural IQ? True or False? The songs“Viper’s Drag,”“Honeysuckle Rose,”“A Handful of Keys,”and“Ain’t Misbehavin’”were all written by one amazing jazz/ragtime talent during the early- to mid-1900s. True or False? That musician was Louie Armstrong.
E-mail answers to TerriMorrison@kissboworshakehands.com. A free copy of Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than Sixty Countries will be awarded to a correct respondent, courtesy of F&W Media.
July/August’s Answer: True. Alcohol is prohibited for observant Muslims, for Sikhs, for Mormons, and typically, for Buddhists.
Terri Morrison is a Speaker, Co-author of 9 books, and is working on her 10th. She is also Editor of Kiss Bow or Shake Hands® Digital - available through McGraw-Hill. TerriMorrison @kissboworshakehands Twitter @KissBowAuthor. Tel (610) 725-1040. BT