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The History of Music - Part 1

Music, like speech, must be recognised as one of the important elements of humanity. It is impossible to conceive of the existence of a race of people unpossessed of at least some rudimentary form of music, and certainly no such race has yet been discovered. Wherever explorers have ventured, they have invariably found a more or less definite national music esteemed and cultivated. In the remotest corners of the world, among the Indian tribes of the Americas, the most barbarous of the African tribes, the least known peoples of the far East, wherever travel and exploration have opened up the recesses of a strange land, it has been found that music existed there, and often in a curiously forward state of development compared with the useful arts of life.

Of the beginning of music we know no more than we do of the beginning of speech. The most primitive nations have each and all their own national music, just as they have each their own national form of speech. Music is thus an immemorial thing; for the sculptures of Nineveh, and the sculptures and paintings of the ancient Egyptians, the oldest records of life and manners extant, represent musicians and musical instruments in such a way as leads one to the conclusion that, even in the period to which these carvings and paintings belong, music had already travelled a long way on the path of development. What the music from which the comparatively finished art of the Assyrians and Egyptians was evolved was like, we may perhaps be best able to judge from a brief survey of the music of various uncivilised nations as existing at the present day.

All the world over, the music of the more primitive of the uncivilised races may be said to move on parallel lines, and it is only as tribes and nations rise somewhat in the scale of nature that their music begins to display any marked degree of differentiation. Down on what might be called the bed-rock of humanity they are all pretty much alike, and in the national music of the most widely removed races the same phenomena present themselves with but trifling modification. Singing or any type of vocal sounds is common everywhere on planet earth. The primitive human being gives expression to the primary emotions and passions by means of the voice or speech as a matter of instinct, just as is done by the brute creation.

The first step in advance is taken when the savage becomes conscious, as it were, for the first time, of the sounds which are born of certain circumstances, and endeavours to reproduce these sounds irrespective of the feelings from which they arise. This is the first recognition of sound that has any meaning; and from it to early stages of the rhythmical narrative, and to the song, is no inconceivable transition. With the sense of rhythm, which was most probably evolved from simply walking, footsteps themselves are rhythmic, whether in walking or in dancing, it is as natural to early man as to walk-comes the first hint of a musical instrument; for, with all races, instruŽments are rhythmic first, and only genuinely melodic when a higher standard of life has been reached.

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About The Author: About the Author. Michael David Shaw runs music websites and

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