Beat It: The Origin of Music

The influence of music in our modern culture envelopes virtually every aspect of human interaction. Music is the constant soundtrack to human experience from morning to night, whether it’s on the radio, as a jingle on the telephone, in shops and even as a background at the doctor’s surgery. But, apart from the passing pleasure of listening to music, there is a creative element that comes together in certain compositions, songs or performances that elevates the experience to another level. In this article I’ll endeavour to explain how music evolved and why it provides for so many a source of inspiration in their everyday lives. It’s not an historical account but rather an esoteric description of a remarkable phenomenon.

In the halcyon period of human evolution, being in existence was a totally absorbing psychedelic experience. ‘Psychedelic’ means the dual perception of life: as a psychic impulse within alternating as a sensory physical awareness without. Original music was none other than the elemental pulse of the earth’s spirit resonating as the symphony of nature. This was the Word or the ‘hum’ of existence, expressed as “Aum” in some philosophies; the sacred sound of eternity. Music has evolved as a substitute to the original song of life, which was the union between the inner and outer realms. The joy and reverence for music, and the wonder of the symmetry and harmony of sound is the recognition of an aspect of the Word or original sound of eternity.
   When the connection between man and his pristine nature began to waver, a remarkable transformation occurred. The inner sense of unity that had preserved man’s spiritual identity became fragmented and set in motion the externalising of the differentiated senses familiar to us today. With the transmission of pure life degraded to the courser frequency of sensory awareness, the inner signal faded and eventually appeared to cut out. The cosmic pulse that had attuned man to the earth and the stellar system now externalised as a beat that manifested through the senses as an organ of flesh and blood – the heart.

The melody of life had now to be manufactured as a substitute for living in harmony on the earth. Searching frantically for something to replicate what was felt to be missing, man hit upon an idea consonant with the new progressive way of life. Percussive patterns to a rhythmic beat, he discovered, had a strange and magical effect that caused his body to move and could even influence his feelings and behaviour. He awarded special significance to the gestures, shapes and courtship display of sacred creatures which were replicated in ceremonial dances and ritual. Shamans or witch doctors utilised the percussive beat to invoke a deeper communion with the nature spirits of the primitive world. But this was corrupted in time when used as a means to control and manipulate others by psychic force and illusion. The beat, when synchronised to the quickening pulse of the tribe or collective habitation, could invoke delirium or trance, creating a psychic vortex for supernatural phenomena to occur. When this magic began to wane, human sacrifice became necessary to achieve the same effects as before. The heart was dispatched from the body and offered as appeasement or tribute by the high priest to the spirit world and his gods. Man was no longer in charge of the beat – it had begun to possess him.

The structure of musical composition evolved as a sensory interpretation of the psychic patterns of the cyclic process of life. Wind instruments such as flutes, pipes and horns followed. These mimicked birdsong and the elements, which developed in time as a musical structure or language. Certain notes in an interval or sequence, it was discovered, could invoke feelings either of sadness and melancholy or happiness and optimism. These were called scales, the two most important being the major and the minor.
   The psyche translates reality through pulse patterns of instinctive life which, in turn, release an energetic sequence of data through electrical charges to the brain. These clusters of energy, shaped as spirals, invert to the left or to the right. The left spin spirals produce a subdued minor effect whilst the right spin spirals, vibrating at a higher rate, create a brighter major effect. The mental aspect of the mind translates the pulse of life into scales, modes and melody through the infinite creative possibilities of the inner life process.

As civilisation evolved, the demand for pleasure and the arts produced a modified or formalised version of the primitive beat consonant to the requirements of a more sophisticated audience. The key to modern music’s popularity is in the interplay between the emotions and the mind. Any song or performance able to stir an emotional reaction is likely to find an eager and appreciative audience. It does this through the pendulum of the emotional scale, which swings between the peak of excitement and the depths of depression. Music is able to bridge the divided senses by piecing together fragmented emotions in the listener to a rounded mass or block for a while. This is felt to be satisfying and brings a sense of stability to offset any anxieties or restlessness of the mind – and a temporary respite to the demands and stresses of the world.
As acts and performances become more sexually explicit (with dance and stage routines resembling a good night at Sodom and Gomorrah!) musical evolution has come full circle, with a return to the east where it all began. But there is a difference that distinguishes the virtue of music from the superficial and disposable popular music that is now the mainstream of the entertainment industry. This is the missing link that exists between the East and the West.
   Eastern music is devotional in essence. It directs the listener inwards on a wave of sound to participate in the creative source of the performance. Western music is projective in essence and directs the listener outwards on a beat, to emotionalise the creative act of a performance. Music today is the most popular form of self expression on the planet and is tremendously diverse with a fusion of styles and techniques. Both East and West have now merged into a global culture where just about anything goes.

The most gifted artists, composers and performers have one thing in common which they often refer to at some point in their career. It is that their most inspirational work is created spontaneously, without effort, and in effect they are just a vehicle for the creative essence to externalise. Musicians sometimes observe that a performance that was exceptional appeared to be playing independently of any person or intent. This is the muse or the creative source of the original idea being expressed in the moment. But this can only manifest (at its own behest) when the person, or desire for anything outside of the moment, is absent.
   Eastern music originally reached this exalted state through master musicians who were able to invoke this spiritual aspect at the heart of all musical expression. Yet the muse has not disappeared and is still attainable, whether at the opera house or through a singer at the local pub. The performance then transcends the mediocre; and on that creative wave everybody present will have the opportunity of participating in that original power and beauty. 

Lance Kelly 2012