A Brief History of Music

No answers at first, no evidence,

with which to build an epistemology

of sound: harmony, a feeling

of flow, rhythms that binds us as we bond.

Are we are born with this?

We live

as completely in a world of sight and touch.

A rap upon a hollow trunk

provides an incident of primitive joy,

and may open one’s mind to various theories of modulation;

and history gives us names: Strativarius, Cristofori,

permits a trace upon the path, a backwards stumble

to where myth is intertwined:

names as symbols, symbols

as stand-ins for actual names.


Look! When it comes to language,

and linguistic analysis,

he who claimed for those bare beginnings

one primordial tongue, and which

may suggestibly have reigned supreme

prior to the age of Babel,

has more often been called “Cracked-in-the-Noggin”,

his ideas swept ignominiously beneath the floorboards.

But sound! But music! Just what did we sing

as we swung through the trees? It’s like a German anthem,

its origins medieval, part song, part prayer.

Did you know that whales sing also,

that they, like some of us, have Von Economo neurons,

some kind of stream-lined brain cells that can hold a tune?

Only the instruments themselves have known starts,

Edison with his talking machine,

Ben Franklin’s harmonica, Antoine J. Sax (his phone).

So why not then that demigod, whose legend I would sing?

Instead of fire, he gave man the lyre,

and plucked the magic of music from its strings.