Everything ends. And I want to start with the end.
I am giving up my two previous newsletters. To start a new one, this one!
A New Beginning
There is magic in every beginning, wrote Hermann Hesse; Schumpeter speaks of creative destruction. Peter Fox simply sings everything anew (“Alles Neu”) and Casper raps “Alles endet aber nie die Musik” (Everything ends but the music does not).
Music As A Primal Instinct
Why is music so essential to us? Why does it give us strength and can motivate us to lift heavy weights, do an extra pull-up or run another mile?
Why do melancholic songs move us to tears and relieve pain and grief?
And why is music so universal, so deeply anchored in us humans like a primal instinct.
In the book “Why Do People Sing” the ethnomusicologist Joseph Jordania writes: Music helped people to survive.
Not just in a figurative sense, as we might answer today if certain artists’ songs helped us through a difficult time; according to the motto: “Without your songs (insert random artist here) I would never have survived this time!”
But quite specifically: people use music to avoid being killed.
Evolution Because Of Music
Jordania finds amazing connections and develops a fascinating theory:
Humans evolved singing and rhythm to survive, and in doing so laid the foundation for extraordinary evolutionary achievements such as burial of the dead and language.
If that isn’t a big “Thank You For The Music”!?
Human physiology is not designed to hunt or defend against predators.
We have no sharp fangs, claws, nor do we have armored, not even hard skin. Humans do not sprint fast or can smell enemies from hundreds of meters away.
Humans do not have camouflage like striped tigers, nor do they have warning coloring like many insects, which use their color to signal predators that they are defensive or unpalatable.
Humans walk on two legs - this is a very exposed position in the savannah to be visible to potential enemies not hiding beneath the grass.
If we go way back in human evolution, we weren’t a species that climbed down trees as apes, immediately organized into groups of humans to hunt with rocks and spears.
There would have to be a few millennia, if not millions of years of human evolution in between.
So how come, we as human beings, weren’t eaten by stronger animals or chased back up into the trees?
Jordania describes that there are thousands of singing species, mainly birds, but also gibbons, dolphins and whales. Everyone sings in the water or on trees. When a bird lands on the ground, it stops singing.
A human being is the only land creature that sings. And of all singing creatures, humans are the only ones who use rhythm.
When we sing, we almost always dance, even if it’s just a nod or a tap of a foot. Both chanting and dancing are group activities used in tribal bonding rituals around the world.
One of the most well-known tribal dances is the Haka - a Māori ritual dance that does a pretty good job of representing what Jordania means: the dancers make noises, chant and snort, stamp the ground and grimace. Dynamic, powerful and certainly intimidating to opponents.
Imagine the opponent being a lion, or even a pride of lionesses. Individually, Haka dancers wouldn’t stand a chance against the big cats. But as a loud, dangerous-looking, synchronized entity, the human tribe is fearsome and overpowering.
And then there is Jordania’s theory of “battle trance”. A state that goes hand in hand with communal dance and allows the individual to merge with the collective - fearless and pain resistant.
Lose Yourself In The Music
Music causes humans to attain states of consciousness that give them seemingly superhuman strength.
Rhythm and singing are therefore a crucial stage in the incarnation.
In addition to the almost banal personal taste in music, in addition to all musical genres, “Music Makes The People Come Together” is not only a nice get-together but also a big “Can I Kick It” that scares away the predators and turns us into human beings.
Music Is Larger Than Life
So if you want drop knowledge in your next music discussion, you can quote ethnomusicologist Joseph Jordania - or just the Backstreet Boys, because music is clearly essential for survival and “Larger Than Life”.