Music, Creation, Chaos, Order

December 1, 2017

Came across this quote by Lewis Thomas in his collection of essays, The Lives of a Cell:

"If, as I believe, the urge to make music is as much a characteristic of our biology as our other functions, there ought be an explanation for it. Having none at hand, I am free to make one up. The rhythmic sounds might be the recapitulation of something else--an earliest memory, a score for the transformation of inanimate, random matter in chaos into the improbable, ordered dance of living forms."

Music as the memory of creation. Interesting how this relates to tribal ideas of song creating the world. Here's a passage from Bruce Chatwin's book about the Australian aboriginals, The Song Lines, introduced by Daniel Pinchbeck:

"The aboriginals believe that their mythological Ancestors sang the land and all of its creatures into existence. A tribesman's religious life 'had a single aim: to keep the land the way it was and should be,' Chatwin writes. 'The man who went Walkabout was making a ritual journey. He trod in the footsteps of the Ancestor. He sang the Ancestor's stanzas without changing a word or note--and so re-created the Creation."

Reminds me of Mircea Eliade's idea of the "Eternal Return," that myth and ritual provide ways of re-experiencing primal, sacred time, though it also raises the question of creativity. Note that the tribesman sings "without changing a word or note," in which case where is the opportunity for individual creativity, departure, elaboration, exploration--improvisation? Improvisation as a modern attempt to revisit, renew, make present the moment of creation?

Comments have been disabled for this post