A Musical Journey Through Time


Humans are not the only primates that sing. But the others are silver gibbons, and they warble like very loud birds. So perhaps homo sapiens were the first species to produce actual songs. And what kinds of songs were they? Lullabies? War drums?

Using music to sooth or inspire fear in your audience can be more effective than speech. And what better way to play or to share your joy than to sing with someone?

I can imagine a tribe of primitive people taking shelter in a cave. A woman singing softly to her crying babe is urged by other members of the tribe to lift her voice – to share her blissful gift with the others. They hum along, perhaps learn the words, maybe change or add some as they add their voices to the chorus, because there is strength and security in numbers.

Having thus learned to sing, a man with a strong voice starts singing in a cavern, experimenting with echo. Others join in. The game finds a natural rhythm and structure, filling the space; bonding people together. Harmonizing becomes something the people in the tribe like to do. And then they find other tribes, each with their own secret languages of song. The groups share their songs and it becomes the distinctive sound of all the folk on that peninsula or in that Valley or in those mountains. Folk songs are shared with other folks – a chain that ultimately circles the globe of the civilized world.

The different languages they speak are irrelevant because new lyrics are applied as a matter of course, because it’s only important to keep the music relevant to the audience you’re singing it to.

 A Happy, Copyright Free World!

Since the word 'minstrel' was permanently tarnished by the travelling minstrel shows of 19th century America, it might be better to pick a different word.

In 1366, European travelling musicians were called jongleurs or widsmiths or scops; every language group has their own nouns. By this point in history, musicians were travelling and sharing their music and talent with new audiences in distant communities.  Today we call them buskers, the brave and irrepressible artists who presume to think they can make a living, however tenuous, from music.

We have no way of knowing what sorts of music were experimented with and probably rejected, back then. But in those long-long-ago, pre-baroque days I like to think that maybe some of them worked together in creating a sort of medieval rap. Imagine a fire juggler weaving through the crowd to get people’s attention. Then the music starts. A beat is laid down by a woman with a bodran singing transcendent skat in a startling soprano. Another voice comes weaving, turning the vocals into a mesh-like gymel. The sounds of a plucked lyre reinforce the beat, adding a klezmorim exoticism.

It wasn’t until the late 1500s that the spoken word consciously demanded its own stage. So in the late 1300s, poets and storytellers probably performed with the musicians.

I can almost hear the a Moroccan rapper free-styling a tale of djinn that grants magic wishes. As with modern hip-hop, maybe he addresses the audience directly “Don’t just stand there like a killa, wave your arms like a gorilla, grab your drink and sing and sin, free your demon djinn within. Get all your wishes, clap your hands, clap your hands, clap your hands…”

 Some young kid in the audience, aching to leave home learned some ground-breaking lessons from seeing that show. He started making up his own songs, integrating that single gimmick: the lyrical instruction to “clap your hands,” changed to “stomp your feet to the beat” and the boy built an all new instrumental framework around it. Punctuated the beats with horns. The Djinn narrative turned to “Ali Baba, Baby” lyrics and the boy became a sensation, playing his songs to big audiences in Northern Spain that came when they heard he was in town.

Some of the music written for rich or royal patrons in palaces was also written down and survived the centuries. But probably not the folk music. Music of the land, of the street, and of the sea tends to be stripped down, bawdy, political, as well as raucous, foot-stomping and easy to remember.

Maybe our fictional rapper made a name for himself. Maybe he was hugely popular for a few years in some obscure region of the ancient world. But that point in history, it wouldn’t have been the songwriting that made him famous – it would more likely have been for the energy, purity or joy of his performances.

And all the music that was circulating, whether as sleepy as a mother’s lullaby, or impassioned or stately, or hilarious, or exhilarating and fun – was owned by no-one in particular, sung by everyone and influenced everyone.

 And so the music grows, slow as a tree, a forest, branching out and extending its reach over the course of lifetimes.

The evolution of music no doubt happened even more slowly than that. Who knows how many tributaries dried up or merged into major streams? There may be all sorts of heavy metal riffs, harpsicord solos and blues refrains that appeared briefly before being lost in the mists of time – not that those styles would likely be recognizable as such to modern listeners – who would probably hear it more as Gregorian chanting with baroque pretensions.

Music is emotion and emotion belongs to whomever experiences it and is moved by it.

 Plagiarism is Born

 The same once held true for theatre. If you said that Shakespeare never came up with an original plot, that may well be true. But the voice he developed to tell those stories set him apart. And being one of the first great artists to emerge in the wake of Gutenberg, Shakespeare’s words were preserved and had a huge influence on the development of the English language. If he had lived 100 years earlier, we may never have heard of him. He certainly wouldn’t have achieved the ubiquity that has been Shakespeare’s ever since.

The circulation of printed material changed the arts forever. Plagiarism became a provable thing. At the beginning of the 17th century, satirist Ben Jonson got his knickers in a knot because someone else was stealing and making money by passing his work off as their own. This is worse for humorists than most writers because of the nature of comedy. Jokes generally only work the first time they’re told – so someone stealing your thunder would hurt your reputation and probably have an immediate impact on your income. A double whammy. The fucking plagiarists had to go.

Poems in occasional broadsheets could feed a growing literary reputation. But the real money was in serializing, so that consumers essentially had to subscribe in order to get to the end of the story. Epic poems became novels.

The format had been foreordained by the popularity of rhymes, poems, bar songs, narrative ballads, jokes, plays, word-of-mouth stories and games of Robin Hood and his rotating roster of sidekicks and villainous aristocrats. Robin Hood remained popular in England from the 14th to 16th century England. You thought that The Sound of Music and Dark Side of the Moon had good runs.

So it was known that audiences had a craving for continuity.

All the familiar stories played out time and again; heroes against villains, girl meets boy, humans against nature. There was a time I’m not quite old enough to remember when nature seemed to be winning.

 Popular tastes haven’t changed much. Except that the biggest concern these days is that CGI not be discernable as such. Folk heroes like Robin Hood have become today’s legion after legion of superheroes. Batman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman and such.  Rather than being the heroes of the downtrodden, mutants generally are the downtrodden. Cuts out the middleman. Gives us a hero for every taste and every purpose; who we can adopt as our own personal saviours. I predict another few years before even the hardest of hardcore superhero fans just isn’t as interested as he once was. I’m actually fairly sure that games are already or will shortly become the last refuge for true human creativity.  

Oh yeah. I’m sure superheroes are copyrighted up the yin yang. Along with most pre-millennial fixations. But here and now in the age of AI, copyright is reaching a strange saturation point. There are several million times more creators than there are stories.  

Heroes against villains. Girl meets boy. Humans against human nature. I’m sure we already have Nova Boy – who can only ever be a hero once and is saving it up for later. Now I’m being attacked by random ideas. One of the hazards of working all night. And alas, morning is breaking and I must take my leave.

So in this new world, we’re all going to be violating each others copyright all the freaking time. Laws surrounding copyright are vague and subjective at best. Their effectiveness probably depends as much on judges who get paid off (and some who don’t, and some that go to the highest bidder.

Lady law don’t care; the better to keep us all out on a limb. Keep us afraid to violate copyright, just in case.

How Copyright Law is Affecting my Approach to the Diptych?.

 So the thing I’ve tried to do in this book is to simply not worry about it. And the only way I can keep myself from worrying about it is not to do it. I’m sure some clever lawyer could find a copyright violation there somewhere. 

 I just need to point out that it would not only be damned hard case to prosecute, and the only way you’ll get any return on investment is to come back after I’ve made a fortune on it.

In the meantime, let's all just create, share, and enjoy. 

Humans are not the only primates that sing. But the others are silver gibbons, and they warble like very loud birds. So perhaps homo sapiens were the first species to produce actual songs. And what kinds of songs were they? Lullabies? War drums?

Using music to sooth or inspire fear in your audience can be more effective than speech. And what better way to play or to share your joy than to sing with someone?

I can imagine a tribe of primitive people taking shelter in a cave. A woman singing softly to her crying babe is urged by other members of the tribe to lift her voice – to share her blissful gift with the others. They hum along, perhaps learn the words, maybe change or add some as they add their voices to the chorus, because there is strength and security in numbers.

Having thus learned to sing, a man with a strong voice starts singing in a cavern, experimenting with echo. Others join in. The game finds a natural rhythm and structure, filling the space; bonding people together. Harmonizing becomes something the people in the tribe like to do. And then they find other tribes, each with their own secret languages of song. The groups share their songs and it becomes the distinctive sound of all the folk on that peninsula or in that Valley or in those mountains. Folk songs are shared with other folks – a chain that ultimately circles the globe of the civilized world.

The different languages they speak are irrelevant because new lyrics are applied as a matter of course, because it’s only important to keep the music relevant to the audience you’re singing it to.

 A Happy, Copyright Free World!

 In 1366, European travelling musicians were called jongleurs or widsmiths or scops; every language group has their own nouns. By this point in history, musicians were travelling and sharing their music and talent with new audiences in distant communities.  Today we call them buskers, the brave and irrepressible artists who presume to think they can make a living, however tenuous, from music.

We have no way of knowing what sorts of music were experimented with and probably rejected, back then. But in those long-long-ago, pre-baroque days I like to think that maybe some of them worked together in creating a sort of medieval rap. Imagine a fire juggler weaving through the crowd to get people’s attention. Then the music starts. A beat is laid down by a woman with a bodran singing transcendent skat in a startling soprano. Another voice comes weaving, turning the vocals into a mesh-like gymel. The sounds of a plucked lyre reinforce the beat, adding a klezmorim exoticism.

It wasn’t until the late 1500s that the spoken word consciously demanded its own stage. So in the late 1300s, poets and storytellers probably performed with the musicians.

I can almost hear the a Moroccan rapper free-styling a tale of djinn that grants magic wishes. As with modern hip-hop, maybe he addresses the audience directly “Don’t just stand there like a killa, wave your arms like a gorilla, grab your drink and sing and sin, free your demon djinn within. Get all your wishes, clap your hands, clap your hands, clap your hands…”

 Some young kid in the audience, aching to leave home learned some ground-breaking lessons from seeing that show. He started making up his own songs, integrating that single gimmick: the lyrical instruction to “clap your hands,” changed to “stomp your feet to the beat” and the boy built an all new instrumental framework around it. Punctuated the beats with horns. The Djinn narrative turned to “Ali Baba, Baby” lyrics and the boy became a sensation, playing his songs to big audiences in Northern Spain that came when they heard he was in town.

Some of the music written for rich or royal patrons in palaces was also written down and survived the centuries. But probably not the folk music. Music of the land, of the street, and of the sea tends to be stripped down, bawdy, political, as well as raucous, foot-stomping and easy to remember.

Maybe our fictional rapper made a name for himself. Maybe he was hugely popular for a few years in some obscure region of the ancient world. But that point in history, it wouldn’t have been the songwriting that made him famous – it would more likely have been for the energy, purity or joy of his performances.

And all the music that was circulating, whether as sleepy as a mother’s lullaby, or impassioned or stately, or hilarious, or exhilarating and fun – was owned by no-one in particular, sung by everyone and influenced everyone.

 And so the music grows, slow as a tree, a forest, branching out and extending its reach over the course of lifetimes.

The evolution of music no doubt happened even more slowly than that. Who knows how many tributaries dried up or merged into major streams? There may be all sorts of heavy metal riffs, harpsicord solos and blues refrains that appeared briefly before being lost in the mists of time – not that those styles would likely be recognizable as such to modern listeners – who would probably hear it more as Gregorian chanting with baroque pretensions.

Music is emotion and emotion belongs to whomever experiences it and is moved by it.

 Plagiarism is Born

 The same once held true for theatre. If you said that Shakespeare never came up with an original plot, that may well be true. But the voice he developed to tell those stories set him apart. And being one of the first great artists to emerge in the wake of Gutenberg, Shakespeare’s words were preserved and had a huge influence on the development of the English language. If he had lived 100 years earlier, we may never have heard of him. He certainly wouldn’t have achieved the ubiquity that has been Shakespeare’s ever since.

The circulation of printed material changed the arts forever. Plagiarism became a provable thing. At the beginning of the 17th century, satirist Ben Jonson got his knickers in a knot because someone else was stealing and making money by passing his work off as their own. This is worse for humorists than most writers because of the nature of comedy. Jokes generally only work the first time they’re told – so someone stealing your thunder would hurt your reputation and probably have an immediate impact on your income. A double whammy. The fucking plagiarists had to go.

Poems in occasional broadsheets could feed a growing literary reputation. But the real money was in serializing, so that consumers essentially had to subscribe in order to get to the end of the story. Epic poems became novels.

The format had been foreordained by the popularity of rhymes, poems, bar songs, narrative ballads, jokes, plays, word-of-mouth stories and games of Robin Hood and his rotating roster of sidekicks and villainous aristocrats. Robin Hood remained popular in England from the 14th to 16th century England. You thought that The Sound of Music and Dark Side of the Moon had good runs.

So it was known that audiences had a craving for continuity.

All the familiar stories played out time and again; heroes against villains, girl meets boy, humans against nature. There was a time I’m not quite old enough to remember when nature seemed to be winning.

 Popular tastes haven’t changed much. Except that the biggest concern these days is that CGI not be discernable as such. Folk heroes like Robin Hood have become today’s legion after legion of superheroes. Batman, Wolverine, Wonder Woman and such.  Rather than being the heroes of the downtrodden, mutants generally are the downtrodden. Cuts out the middleman. Gives us a hero for every taste and every purpose; who we can adopt as our own personal saviours. I predict another few years before even the hardest of hardcore superhero fans just isn’t as interested as he once was. I’m actually fairly sure that games are already or will shortly become the last refuge for true human creativity.  

Oh yeah. I’m sure superheroes are copyrighted up the yin yang. Along with most pre-millennial fixations. But here and now in the age of AI, copyright is reaching a strange saturation point. There are several million times more creators than there are stories.  

Heroes against villains. Girl meets boy. Humans against human nature. I’m sure we already have Nova Boy – who can only ever be a hero once and is saving it up for later. Now I’m being attacked by random ideas. One of the hazards of working all night. And alas, morning is breaking and I must take my leave.

So in this new world, we’re all going to be violating each others copyright all the freaking time. Laws surrounding copyright are vague and subjective at best. Their effectiveness probably depends as much on judges who get paid off (and some who don’t, and some that go to the highest bidder.

Lady law don’t care; the better to keep us all out on a limb. Keep us afraid to violate copyright, just in case.

How Copyright Law is Affecting my Approach to the Diptych?.

 So the thing I’ve tried to do in this book is to simply not worry about it. And the only way I can keep myself from worrying about it is not to do it. I’m sure some clever lawyer could find a copyright violation there somewhere. 

 I just need to point out that it would not only be damned hard case to prosecute, and the only way you’ll get any return on investment is to come back after I’ve made a fortune on it.

In the meantime, let's all just create, share, and enjoy. 

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