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Musical eras
Prehistoric
Ancient (before AD 500)
Early (500 – 1760)
Common practice (1600 – 1900)
Modern and contemporary (1900 – present)

Prehistoric music (previously called primitive music) is a term in the history of music for all music produced in preliterate cultures (prehistory), beginning somewhere in very late geological history. Prehistoric music is followed by ancient music in most of Europe (1500 BCE) and later musics in subsequent European-influenced areas, but still exists in isolated areas.

Prehistoric music thus technically includes all of the world's music that has existed before the advent of any currently-extant historical sources concerning that music, for example, traditional Native American music of preliterate tribes and Australian Aboriginal music. However, it is more common to refer to the "prehistoric" music of non-European continents – especially that which still survives – as folk, indigenous or traditional music.

Contents

Origins

The origin of music is not known as it occurred prior to the advent of recorded history. Some suggest that the origin of music likely stems from naturally occurring sounds and rhythms. Human music may echo these phenomena using patterns, repetition and tonality. Even today, some cultures have certain instances of their music intending to imitate natural sounds. In some instances, this feature is related to shamanistic beliefs or practice.[1][2] It may also serve entertainment (game)[3][4] or practical (luring animals in hunt)[3] functions.

Even aside from the bird song, monkeys have been witnessed to beat on hollow logs. Although this might serve some purpose of territorialism, it suggests a degree of creativity and seems to incorporate a call and response dialogue. See: zoomusicology.

It is possible that the first musical instrument was the human voice itself, which can make a vast array of sounds, from singing, humming and whistling through to clicking, coughing and yawning. (See Darwin's Origin of Species on music & speech.) The oldest known Neanderthal hyoid bone with the modern human form has been dated to be 60,000 years old,[5] predating the oldest known bone flute by 25,000 years; but since both artifacts are unique the true chronology may date back much further.

Most likely the first rhythm instruments or percussion instruments involved the clapping of hands, stones hit together, or other things that are useful to create rhythm and indeed there are examples of musical instruments which date back as far as the paleolithic, although there is some ambiguity over archaeological finds which can be variously interpreted as either musical or non-musical instruments/tools. Examples of paleolithic objects which are considered unambiguously musical are bone flutes or pipes; paleolithic finds which are open to interpretation are pierced phalanges (usually interpreted as "phalangeal whistles"), objects interpreted as Bullroarers, and rasps.

Music can be theoretically traced to prior to the Oldowan era of the Paleolithic age, the anthropological and archeological designation suggests that music first arose (amongst humans) when stone tools first began to be used by hominids. The noises produced by work such as pounding seed and roots into meal is a likely source of rhythm created by early humans.

Prehistoric music varies greatly in style, function, general relation to culture, and complexity. The Timbila music of the Chopi is considered one of the most complex preliterate musics.

Flutes

The oldest flute ever discovered may be the so-called Divje Babe flute, found in the Slovenian cave Divje Babe I in 1995, though this is disputed.[6] The item in question is a fragment of the femur of a juvenile cave bear, and has been dated to about 43,000 years ago.[7][8] However, whether it is truly a musical instrument or simply a carnivore-chewed bone is a matter of ongoing debate.[6]

In 2008 archaeologists discovered a bone flute in the Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany.[9] [10] The five-holed flute has a V-shaped mouthpiece and is made from a vulture wing bone. The researchers involved in the discovery officially published their findings in the journal Nature, in June 2009. The discovery is also the oldest confirmed find of any musical instrument in history.[11] The flute, one of several found, was found in the Hohle Fels cavern next to the Venus of Hohle Fels and a short distance from the oldest known human carving.[12] On announcing the discovery, scientists suggested that the "finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe".[13] Scientists have also suggested that the discovery of the flute may help to explain why early humans survived, while Neanderthals became extinct.[11]

The oldest known wooden pipes were discovered near Greystones, Ireland, in 2004. A wood-lined pit contained a group of six flutes made from yew wood, between 30 and 50cm long, tapered at one end, but without any finger holes. They may once have been strapped together.[14]

In 1986 several gudi (literally "bone flutes") were found in Jiahu in Henan Province, China. They date to about 6,000 BC. They have between 5 and 8 holes each and were made from the hollow bones of a bird, the red-crowned crane. At the time of the discovery, one was found to be still playable. The bone flute plays both the five- or seven-note scale of Xia Zhi and six-note scale of Qing Shang of the ancient Chinese musical system.

Cycladic culture

On the island of Keros (Κέρος), two marble statues from the late Neolithic culture called Early Cycladic culture (2900 BC-2000 BC) were discovered together in a single grave in the 19th century. They depict a standing double flute player and a sitting musician playing a triangular-shaped lyre or harp. The harpist is approximately 23 cm (9 in) high and dates to around 2700-2500 BC. He expresses concentration and intense feelings and tilts his head up to the light. The meaning of these and many other figures is not known; perhaps they were used to ward off evil spirits or had religious significance or served as toys or depicted figures from mythology.

The discovery of this and similar pieces (they are very simplified and abstract in form) in the late 19th century had considerable influence on the sculpture of the early 20th century, for example on that by modernists such as Picasso and Modigliani.

See also

External links

Notes

  1. ^ Hoppál 2006: 143
  2. ^ Diószegi 1960: 203
  3. ^ a b Nattiez: 5
  4. ^ Deschênes 2002
  5. ^ B. Arensburg, A. M. Tillier, B. Vandermeersch, H. Duday, L. A. Schepartz & Y. Rak (April 1989). "A Middle Palaeolithic human hyoid bone". Nature 338 (338): 758–760. doi:10.1038/338758a0.  
  6. ^ a b d'Errico, Francesco, Paola Villa, Ana C. Pinto Llona, and Rosa Ruiz Idarraga (1998). "A Middle Palaeolithic origin of music? Using cave-bear bone accumulations to assess the Divje Babe I bone 'flute'" (Abstract). Antiquity 72 (March): 65–79. http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/072/Ant0720065.htm.  
  7. ^ Tenenbaum, David (June 2000). "Neanderthal jam". The Why Files. University of Wisconsin, Board of Regents. http://whyfiles.org/114music/4.html. Retrieved 14 March 2006.  
  8. ^ Flute History, UCLA. Retrieved June 2007.
  9. ^ Wilford, John N. (June 24, 2009). Flutes Offer Clues to Stone-Age Music. The New York Times. doi:10.1038/nature07995. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/science/25flute.html. Retrieved June 29, 2009.  
  10. ^ http://www.epoc.de/artikel/999323&_z=798890
  11. ^ a b "'Oldest musical instrument' found". BBC news. 2009-06-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8117915.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-26.  
  12. ^ "Music for cavemen". MSMBC. 2009-06-24. http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/06/24/1976108.aspx. Retrieved 2009-06-26.  
  13. ^ "Flutes Offer Clues to Stone-Age Music". The New York Times. 2009-06-24. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/science/25flute.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss. Retrieved 2009-06-26.  
  14. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1105308.htm

References

Further reading

  • Ellen Hickmann, Anne D. Kilmer and Ricardo Eichmann, (ed.) Studies in Music Archaeology III, 2001, VML Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH., Germany ISBN 3-89646-640-2
  • Wallin, Nils, Bjorn Merker, and Steven Brown, eds., The Origins of Music, (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA., 2000). ISBN 0-262-23206-5. Compilation of essays.
  • Engel, Carl, The Music of the Most Ancient Nations, Wm. Reeves, 1929.
  • Haik_Vantoura,Suzanne(1976). The Music of the Bible Revealed ISBN 978-2249271021
  • Nettl, Bruno (1956). Music in Primitive Culture. Harvard University Press.
  • Sachs, Curt, The Rise of Music in the Ancient World, East and West, W.W. Norton, 1943.
  • Sachs, Curt, The Wellsprings of Music, McGraw-Hill, 1965.
  • Smith, Hermann, The World's Earliest Music, Wm. Reeves, 1904.
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