Author: Hendricks, Ralph

Music… the beginning

Eons ago the Earth was silent. Forests stood grey, burdened by cold, trees bent over lifeless. The ground was parched and void of color. Skies were dark and clouds covered the sky, blocking the light. Life seemed to be in hibernation, hidden.

Somewhere in the forest a lone vine hung down from a tree and eventually became entwined between two limbs. As the tree grew taller, the vine tightened. Eventually, another limb from a neighboring tree grew across the vine and as the wind blew the trees rocked in a rhythm, pulling the limb back and forth over the vine. Something happened. Something magical occurred. A sound bright and powerful came from the vine which then vibrated the earth below and the heavens above. The sound was unlike anything the forest had ever heard. The tone was so intense that the clouds parted letting the sun beam down like a spotlight on the vine.

Flowers sprung forth everywhere on the ground and bloomed in a kaleidoscope of colors. Over time other vines on other trees joined the primeval chorus. Some notes were thin and high pitched, piecing the void like arrows while others were thick, resonating bass notes that pounded like heartbeats. Together, these new sounds filled the forest with an orchestral phenomenon. From all points of the land came Earths’ creatures that chirped and howled together in a natural harmony. They all now gathered and sat in awe as if each somehow knew they were experiencing the birth of a new day. The rest is…… music history.

So maybe this little bedtime story is just something make believe that I made up. But when and where did the world first experience the mystery and magic of music? Is music as old as life itself?

It is believed that music may predate language. It is something found in every known culture past and present. Music has been referred to as the “universal language”. The oldest known “song” according to Professor Kilmer @ UC Berkeley is 4,000 years old and was composed of harmonies of thirds and written in the diatonic scale.

Is music something thought to heal the human soul as implied by the 300 year old writing below? The well known phrase below was written by William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697:

“Music hath charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. I've read, that things inanimate have moved and, as with living souls, have been informed, by magic numbers and persuasive sound. What then am I? Am I more senseless grown than trees, or flint? O force of constant woe! 'Tis not in harmony to calm my griefs. Anselmo sleeps, and is at peace; last night the silent tomb received the good old King; He and his sorrows now are safely lodged within its cold, but hospitable bosom. Why am not I at peace?”

Music is so powerful it has defined generations and inspired love, religion and cultures. So as I twang away on my Dobro while my dog sits at my feet sleeping peacefully, I smile and enjoy the moment knowing that maybe I too am somehow helping keep an age old magic alive.


Thank you, CBA members and staff for allowing me to be a welcome column writer these past eighteen months. All the very best to you and your families for a great 2012 and beyond.


Posted:  1/16/2012

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