“Humans took the gifts the One had given them and created sounds to express the emotions they felt in their hearts.“
In The Beginning…
In the very beginning, the First Great Music was celestial, its beauty expressed in the Harmony of the Spheres – the movements of the stars, the Sun, Moon, and planets. There were no human ears to hear it because humans had not been invented yet. Undaunted, it sang through vast eons of space and time, expressing the joy of numerical proportion, the patterns of creation.
As the Music of the Spheres rang out, a consciousness, a personality, began to coalesce and take shape. The One took on the passionate fire of stars, the roiling waters of the great deep, the heavy elements making up the planets, and the light airiness of their atmospheres. It roared into Life.
Like all gods everywhere, it yearned to be adored, echoed and acknowledged. It wanted to play with sound, create new tones, celebrate its magnificence and express itself in all its diversity – but how? Then on a small, seemingly insignificant planet, humans were created. Humans with ears! The god of Music boomed with delight.
The One played its rhythms in the blood and hearts of early tribespeople and showed them how to make drums for dancing. They honored it around their fires, whirling and wheeling in ecstasy as the One watched and listened with pleasure. For a few thousand years, the thumping of feet and drums satisfied it.
Then it decided it was time for something more, and it started whispering to humans about the sounds made by the thin sinews they stretched across their bows. It showed them how to make simple melodies on stringed instruments and combine them with the beating of the drums. It inspired them to experiment with different note combinations and enjoyed itself immensely.
Humans took the gifts the One had given them and created sounds to express the emotions they felt in their hearts. Sadness, celebrations, songs of war and peace, songs of reverence and worship for their gods, songs for telling folk tales – it was all Music to the ears of the One. It taught them about blowing into horns and hollow pipes and about tinkling bells to make long and mournful sounds or imitate the trickling of water.
Then it sat back and watched with glee as they experimented further, tickling their minds now and then with ideas for new combinations of sound, different orders of musical notes, and variations in the beat. It showed them how to make music with only their voices as instruments and taught them harmony and chanting. For a long time, it left them to it to see what they would come up with.
The One watched as civilizations rose and fell, leaving their musical legacies for the generations that followed. For thousands of years, people sang their stories of pomp and splendor, victory and defeat, and honored their gods at festivals and ceremonies that grew ever more complex. The One showed them how to make and use the lute and the lyre.
They learned the music of their folk through hearing it played by their elders and passed it down through aural and oral traditions. Everyone participated through dancing, singing, or playing an instrument to commemorate important times of the year or celebrate family occasions. They celebrated spring, the harvest, the New Moon, the solstices and equinoxes, the death of the Sun in winter, and its rise again in summer. The One saw it and was pleased.
After a few thousand years, the One decided to add some more to the music it was creating on Earth.
The One whispered a plan for the trombone into people’s minds, which it called the sackbut, a variation on the trumpet it had invented a few thousand years earlier. It inspired new and grand designs for the pipe organ, which it had first shared with the ancient Greeks. In the seventeenth century, the organ became the most complex manmade instrument ever and remained so for a hundred years.
The classical composers wrote deeply intellectual and inspired scores for huge orchestras. They made complicated rules about music theory and how to write music. The One taught its secrets of number and interval to the likes of Beethoven and Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Schubert for a hundred years.
It gave them the harpsichord and the pianoforte, and they used them to create some of the most sublime music ever written. They learned of the importance of pitch and sustain. Melody and harmony reigned supreme as they wrote songs for every occasion – dirges for funerals, alleluias for worship, marches for war, operas for stories, symphonies, concertos, fugues, and sonatas.
The One heard the music and was well pleased.
Slaves came up with the Blues to express the melancholy of a hard life, oppression, and problems in love. The acoustic guitar acquired steel strings, making it louder, and the One taught those old guitar players about using the necks of bottles to imitate the wailing of trains. They learned to bend the strings to sound like the human voice, and itinerant bluesmen seized on the guitar as their instrument of choice.
They played the Mississippi Delta blues, the Georgia blues, the Carolina blues, and the Texas blues. Under the One’s inspiration, they invented grooves, turnarounds, and blues chord progressions. They used the flattened third, fifth and seventh of the major scale to create blues melodies.
The harmonica became known as the blues harp, and they learned to blow it while playing the guitar to emphasize the mournfulness of their songs. They sang with deep gravelly voices, added the saxophone to their sound, and made the first blues recordings in the 1920s. The One whispered to W.C Handy, Lonnie Johnson, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Etta James, B.B. King, and still does to the hundreds of outstanding blues musicians that have followed them right up to the present day.
Then Mr. Jazzman came along and thrilled a generation by breaking all the rules that previous musicians had set. The One focused his attention on the African-American communities in New Orleans and Louisiana in the United States, inspiring them with blue notes, swing, polyrhythms, and above all, improvisation. It taught those old jazz musicians to improvise like crazy with all the vim and vigor they could muster!
Jazz just grew and grew as more cultures, people and nations embraced it. The One liked it because it reminded him of the early days when the music was wilder and didn’t have too many rules.
The One was incredibly proud of Louis Armstrong – Satchmo to his fans. But there were many others upon whom it bestowed favor. Buddy Bolden, recognized by some as the founding father of jazz, George Gershwin, Billie Holiday, and the thousands of amazing musicians that came after.
Let There Be Rock!
After a while, the One decided something was still missing – something deep and powerful, sexy and crazy. All the previous musics eventually developed manmade rules, and pharisees, music snobs, and hypocrites arose to repressively rebuke those who didn’t follow them. They started idolizing all the lesser gods that emerged from the different types of music.
Unlike the One, the lesser gods were harsh, and not everybody could afford the time, money, and effort necessary to play their music. People were still mostly hearers of the music, not doers.
The One reflected deeply. It reached into its innermost being to all the fire and passion that lived there and invented the electric guitar. It was loud; it was heavy; the bass was deep and throbbing; it was aggressive and in your face. “Let there be Rock!” roared the One.
People seized on it to rebel against the pharisees, the hypocrites, and the music snobs. They created music that expressed their sexuality, vibrated in the chest, resonated with newfound freedoms, and burst the shackles imposed by previous generations. Hundreds of new bands and thousands of new musicians took up the call.
The One spoke, and Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones were born. Elvis Presley picked up a guitar and wowed the world. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Judas Priest, Prince, Queen, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Metallica, David Bowie, and Pink Floyd, answered the call. Van Halen changed the guitar solo forever.
Best of all, millions of people around the world saw that they too could play this music. Teenagers burned with the desire to emulate the new heroes of rock. They nagged their parents for electric guitars that were accessible to almost everyone because they were mass-produced.
The One punched its fist in the air and shouted, “Yeah!”
The One has inspired human beings ever since they first walked the earth and continues to work its magic to this day. How many musicians down the centuries have said with bafflement, “this song just wrote itself!” The One just smiles and nods to itself as it says, “those with ears to hear, let them hear!”