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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Magic Show

Short blog post today. It's mucho hot and humid.


It occurred to me that I am most receptive listening to music in the evening - sometimes the late, late evening. It also occurred to that concerts tend to be at night.

This made me wonder if the social bonding and community building function of music has a ritualistic association to peoples' universal need for protection from darkness. It is as if music is empowered with magical properties that can ward off monsters lurking in the night.

While today the chances of getting malled by a wild boar at Symphony Hall are rather remote, the modern human psyche still finds comfort and solace in the sound of music when the creepy crawlies have been known to come out. Loud music scares away wild animals, particularly loud contemporary music (e.g. George Crumb's electronic string quartet from 1970, "Black Angels").

Singing or listening to songs while standing around the campfire is an example of the musical magic show. Composers and musicians provide the appropriate mood music to quell fears in humans, and it also seems to have the effect of scaring away the coyotes, tigers, and bears.

Over the eons the composer-magician has developed standard tricks to maximize the psychological impact of their craft. Music making has developed into highly refined sound rituals with broad social ramifications. The profession of composer is not unlike the profession of magician, shaman, or witch doctor. As long as humans have an innate fear of the dark and believe the music can provide comfort, protection, or solace, then composers will have a purpose.

Roasted marshmallows or s'mores anyone?