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Friday, July 03, 2009

Musical Musings


I’ve experienced a musical renaissance of sorts. I truly have. Aided and abetted by the likes of Crazy Diamond and mysterious Mary, I’ve started listening to music again. Really listening. More than listening, actually...thinking a bit, too.

* * *

Studies indicate that a human fetus begins to hear/perceive external sounds in its fifth month of development.

Imagine that.

Sonograms, holograms, technomagicwhatever...we can now observe the embryo react to music and sound as the neural networks grow and develop and imbed themselves within that incredibly sensitive fetal brain.

And I wonder.

There was a time (’bout 200,000 years ago), when the developing proto-human dimly heard the sounds of Nature as it was developing a brain, growing in its own awareness. Now, granted, the sounds of Nature are not always soothing and benign (have you ever heard a rabbit scream?). Still. There was a time when the only sounds to be heard were songs, chirps, whispers, growls, thunder, rustles, rain and the hum of the cosmos.

And then I think of a fetus growing within a contemporary womb
(say in Baghdad or Kabul) where screams and gunshots, bombs and wails pierce the silence...and I wonder...

Does the modern newborn cry louder with the first breath, having already heard and felt the terror?

* * *

Studies show that music and language "light up" different regions of the brain, sharing a few neural connections to be sure, but altogether different, nonetheless.

I descended from the vaguely suspect Aeroflot jet that carried me from Moscow to Vilnius and traipsed dazedly into the bland, cinder-blocked, oh-so-tired airport lobby.

Two elderly women approached each other. They could have been sisters. Couldda been twins. The first had flown with me. Arrived and traipsed with me. The second stood there waiting.

They came within arm’s length of each other. Both stopped. Tears streaming down both pairs of cheeks, they began to sing. A peasant’s song of love. And as they sang, they began to sway from side to side, weight shifting from the right leg to the left and back again. And they sang. Softly. Beautifully.

I stood there. Dumbstruck.

My mother explained. “There are peasants from the highlands who traditionally sing their greetings.”

Music and language different, eh? Not that day. I’ve never heard love expressed as beautifully as I did that day.

* * *

Quantum physicists have their “string theory”. They believe that the essence of an atom is a “string”. A vibration, a sound, a note.

Imagine that.

I’ve stated often (and with absolute scientific certainty) that we are all stardust and infinity. I’d like to amend my definition:

In essence, we are all stardust, music and infinity.

Yes. We are.

Do we truly need more reason to love one another?


* * *

17 Comments:

Blogger deb said...

Gabor Maté, a doctor in Vancouver, believes very strongly that the human brain is shaped both before and after birth. He wrote a very good book about it, "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts".

I'm not musical at all, words are my thing, but I went to three concerts when I was pregnant with my middle daughter, Diana Ross, The Eagles and Billy Joel. Strangely enough my middle daughter loves music, plays the piano and sings beautifully and has perfect pitch. Just goes to show you. I'm guessing my mother never listened to music while pregnant with me, nor her mother. Echoes through the generations.

Sat Jul 04, 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger tipota said...

a few minutes ago i was listening to birds, in fact can hear them now as i type. (but the silence in the box here is deafening) and itsa big big day here by the beach and for once the sun is out so i'm telling you this is great this is great - there is such silence and sound intermixed. i think sound is music and vice versa but singing a greeting is beautiful

Sat Jul 04, 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

I've heard of string theory but am ashamed to admit I couldn't have defined it if my life depended on it. But wow-- it makes perfect sense. You reminded me of a day I'd nearly forgotten, many (MANY) years ago, high, walking alone in the hills behind a friend's house. I lay down in a clearing and listened to the wind and birds and then the whisper of a sound: om. It gradually increased until it was all that existed inside and out (you are the everything). One of those moments that stays with you always even when you forget. A moment that reminds you that you've heard and felt it long ago. String theory indeed.

Deb, I'm a word person too but for me, there is very little that compares with words and music together when they fit.

Great post, Jonas. You have a way of making words sing.

When I Go

Sat Jul 04, 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Selma said...

This is one of those posts where I just nod my head the whole time and don't want to spoil what you have written by saying anything. Music has amazing powers that we don't fully understand. I do believe that it brings us closer to god or the universe or whatever you want to call it.

I am absolutely enchanted by the story of the peasants who sing their greetings. I can't stop thinking about it!

Sat Jul 04, 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I consider myself most fortunate, Deb, in that music has been ever-present in my life ('cepting for the last few years).

Tipota, my muse, I'm so utterly delighted that your day is great is great! And, yes, we should all sing our greetings...and bow (rightfully) before one another.

Awwww, Mary, you're too kind. I watched a program recently about the Oracle at Delphi pronouncifying from the temple of Apollo/Bacchus...the "Know Thyself" admonition carved deeply in the lintel. Gotta love the Greeks. Really. The dual-purpose temple emphasized the point that knowledge comes from within (Apollo) and from "out-of-body" experiences (props to Bacchus).

It all makes sense to me. Hearing the "Om"...something we all need to hear.

Ah, Selma, I wish I could expound a bit on what I saw that day in Vilnius. I can't. I was so utterly gobsmacked, so overwhelmed by what I witnessed, that I can't offer details.

It was one of the moments/experiences/witnessings that remain indeliby incribed on one's soul.

Sun Jul 05, 03:00:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

"incribed" isn't a word, is it?

Oh, well. Y'all know what I meant.

Sun Jul 05, 03:51:00 AM  
Blogger secret agent woman said...

That's a fantastic image of the two sisters greeting each other with song. I'd have been mesmerized, too.

It's raining here and I have all the doors and windows in the house open. Earlier, I was thinking about how the sound of rain or ocean waves is my favorite music.

Sun Jul 05, 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Scott from Oregon said...

"Does the modern newborn cry louder with the first breath, having already heard and felt the terror?"

Ummm, no. Babies do not possess the capacity to make judgements about noise. For all they know, gunshots are"startling noises" and car doors closing are "startling noises"...

Humans have to be closer to five to understand consequences that produce pain and suffering (or joy and pleasure)...

Mon Jul 06, 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Scott, just because a baby can't understand the significance or consequence of a sound or action doesn't mean there is no consequence. "Startling" noises can reverberate for a lifetime in many not necessarily scientific ways.

Mon Jul 06, 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger anna said...

The story about the two women is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.

Mon Jul 06, 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Bob-kat said...

Psychologists have long known that music can drastically alter a persons mood, ore so than anything else. Something Hollywood and TV have long since used to manipulate us when we watch.

Nice post and beautiful story about the old women.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Always nice to meet new bloggers :)

Tue Jul 07, 04:19:00 AM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

I am glad I know how to wave and say hello... the world is a better place if I don't "sing" greetings!

Tue Jul 07, 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger L'uragano (The Hurricane) said...

no comment......just "listening" to this music...

Tue Jul 07, 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Glad to share in these sundry musical musings.

Ah, but Ms. Cheese, their song of greeting was sung like a lullaby. And we can ALL sing soothing lullabies, yes?

My original description of that airport lobby was apt. There really ain't no drab quite like "Commie-drab" (trust me on this). Even so, in my mind, that lobby will always remain a place of magic and mystery. (There are many others, for the world is filled with magic and mystery)

Tue Jul 07, 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Smiler said...

Tongue tied tonight so couldn't find my own words to say it but here (even though I'm sure you know this already):

"OM is the most often chanted sound among all the sacred sounds on earth. This sound is considered as the sound of the existence.

it is believed that the whole universe, in its fundamental form, is made up of vibrating, pulsating energy. Om is considered as the humming sound of this cosmic energy"

Those old yogis knew all there was to know a long time ago...

Wed Jul 08, 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

"Those old yogis knew all there was to know a long time ago..."

As a yoga pactioner of many years, I agree completely, Smiler.

Thanks for stopping by. It's always a pleasure.

Thu Jul 09, 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Kass said...

Thank you so much for the link to this post. I loved reading it and all the comments. What a world we are creating through this blogging thing. I think it is quite beautiful. My heart is stretching to include so much more than I ever imagined.

Wed Nov 18, 12:15:00 AM  

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