Civilization and music go hand-in-hand. Human civilization does not exist without music.
I’m not saying that Music creates Civilization. I’m saying that music has been an important part of every known human culture, as far back as we know human cultures to exist. Archaeologists have found primitive musical instruments dating back 40,000 years, and some evidence suggests civilization and music date back 400,000 years.
It’s a pretty safe bet that, almost from the dawn of humanity itself, we’ve been humming, whistling, singing, clapping, and pounding on things in a rhythmic manner. Chances are, when we gathered together in tribes, we also made music together, since the endorphin rush is much stronger when you play with a group.
Over the millennia, we got better. We identified notes, organized them into scales, figured out melodies, then figured out how to write those melodies down so other people could play them on all the instruments that were rapidly evolving from those early bone flutes and log drums.
All Bets are Off
The next thing we knew, we had J. S. Bach, and after that all bets were off. Music was everywhere, morphing into hymns and cantatas and bawdy operas, and rock and roll.
With the advance of technology, we invented ways to record music, but that never replaced the joy of getting together with your church choir, your garage band, or your pickin’ buddies and playing—for yourselves, but best of all, for other people.
Recorded music is fine, but a live concert is the best!
Only now, in this present moment of Covid-19 and social isolation, live concerts are forbidden.
Does this mean the end of civilization? Or at least the end of civilization as we know it? My day job is Director of Concert Operations for the Dallas Winds. When the coronavirus hit Dallas, we had to reschedule the last two concerts of our season. Our traditional July 4 concert, if it happens at all, will likely happen in a very different form. Although we are making plans for next season, nobody knows when we will be able to perform as a group again.
Worries for the Future
We’re not the only ones worried about the future of civilization and music.
When it’s finally safe to go back out in public, and gather in groups of more than ten, will our audiences come back? Or will they stay home and listen to our YouTube videos and recordings?
All I can say is, music is important. Live music is important. Live performances in front of live audiences are important. Some of the most amazing, spiritual, life-altering experiences I’ve ever known happened in the midst of an enthusiastic audience at a live concert.
But music doesn’t happen without you. If you love it, support it. Chip in when your favorite musician plays an online concert with a tip jar. Send a contribution to your local wind symphony or community band. Teach your children to play an instrument while you’re all at home together. Learn to play one yourself.
And come back to the concert hall when we all get out of isolation.
Music = Civilization, and Civilization = Music. Don’t let either of them die.
Many thanks to ABC Science and H.Jensen/University of Tubingen, for the photo of the ancient flute. Many thanks to the Dallas Winds for the photos of their flute section and 4th of July session, and for the videos from their YouTube channel. The photo of the Dallas Winds Flute Section was taken by Cora Allen, of Cora Allen Photography. All other photos in this post are from the personal collection of G. S. Norwood.