If we look back at the beginning of humankind, it is hard to imagine a time with no music. But was there really music at that time? How was this music created? An interesting fact is that ancient hunter and gatherer cultures had – and still have – no rituals. With a daily routine of setting up traps and sleeping shelters, they had all that was necessary and so did not think further: there was no space for rituals. Hunters and gatherer still exist in some parts of our earth. These people have no music. I don’t think they are sad about this; the fact is, they don’t know what music is. So the beginning of music must have been a part of a ritual, or a ritual itself.
Music is everywhere: if it is not the birds singing, it might be a wolf yowling or even monkeys screaming from the trees. Most animals make music-like noises to mark their territory or in the act of mating. In some animal rituals, there are even mating dances. And yes, here I am beginning to talk about rituals. As soon the daily routine is interrupted by an act that is obviously not part of the normal routine and that also has a special timing, this is a ritual. So let’s take some monkeys sitting on a tree and screaming around – this is just territorial marking. You first hear the eldest male, then the kids, then a solo by the mother and wife, and finally there is a chorus of the whole family. It may sound strange, but here animals are really protecting their territory with music.
This is why “music”, as we know it, was created. As soon as humans settled and began to farm, they not only had a territory but also rituals. They had more time to think, because they had much less do do every day. There is no more need to set up traps if we have a herd of sheep, no more need to build a sleeping shelter if we have houses. So there was a lot of time for different thoughts, and more time means more creativity. This is when religion was founded. Religion gives a basis for rituals and territory. What are we doing if we sing a verse of the Bible in a group, what happens if we meditate in a big circle? Yes, we have a ritual, and yes, we are protecting our territory, the territory of our thoughts being the correct thoughts, and those of the others being wrong.
If I were to compare these territory markings with our music today, I have a thought. If I compare three different kinds of music and the type of people listening to each one, we see three different scenes, three different political interests, three different rituals. And finally, three completely different types of music. This music is each group’s fingerprint, its signature. So even if we are not aware of it, if we go to a certain rock concert, we are marking our territory. We are showing the others where our heart is, what we prefer to hear. Others prefer to hear different music, let’s say techno, and they go to a party with a lot of bass and dance all night. They are marking their own territory as well. We, as rock fans, don’t go into their territory, unless we like both scenes. Then there is the third, the classical junkie: he won’t enter either the rock or the techno territory.
So if we go out on a Saturday night, is that a ritual? Are we marking our territory? It’s still up to you what you think, but maybe you can figure out a way to respect and appreciate different religions and musics. Every single person has their own independent thoughts and preferences, so let’s learn to live with them. Or you can just keep marking your territory at the club you go to every week. But say hi to the security at the door.
Alan Peck, 13.01.2013