emgrasso: (raptors logo)
[personal profile] emgrasso
Imagine a land where no trickster god was moved to be inventive with a tortoise shell. A place with no magic harps or cursed fiddles.

What music there is, comes from percussion, flutes, and the occasional conch.

There are no tuned horns either.

No concepts of musical scales, harmonics and such. Pythagoras is right out.

So, most likely, are bagpipes, which some people might consider an advantage, though I am not one of them. (I also loved fruitcake until I became allergic to all the ingredients except the fruit.)

Concepts like tuning and proportion do things to the worldview and provide different ways of interacting mentally with the organization of things.

Without the idea of a musical scale, what would Newton have seen when his prism made a rainbow? Without acoustics, do you also lose optics as a metaphor for modulations of the immaterial?

I wish the Spaniards had not been so thorough about burning the libraries of the Aztecs and Incas. If there were any philosophical and mathematical treatises, they were probably among the first on the pyres. Just knowing the calendars may be giving us a very skewed view of pre-Columbian ideas of universal structure.

I wonder if the peri-Columbian plagues effectively erased much of the transmission of rhythmic complexity of music in the Western Hemisphere. Music is a basic human fuction like (or possibly part of, or, it has been suggested, a precursor to) language. Complexity is going to happen one way or another, and in a musical culture based on percussion rather than strings (and a mathematical culture where the Mayas had a bunch of different calendars beating against each other) the complexity may have been rhythmic rather than tonal.

I wonder how much of the famous Latin American rhythms had a local basis. Or how much the African rhythms were adopted because they "felt right".

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