Uncertainty Theory #25

On some of the precepts proposed by Ted Gioia on music in the history of mankind.

- Timing - Phil Harmonic - track 5 of "Blue". Gene Tyranny (1979)
- Electric Piano, Vibraphone And Percussion - Craig Kupka - track 1 of Modern Dance Technique Enviroments (1979)
- Satz Exil Sils Maria - Klaus Schulze - track 3 of Irrlicht (1971)

About some of the precepts it proposes Ted Gioia on music in the history of mankind

In this chapter, 24 of the 40 precepts that appear in the book will be named and commented on.

About the book Música: A subversive story written by Ted Gioia (2019)

Ted Gioia (1957 - ) is an important music critic, author of interesting histories of jazz and blues, with a great capacity for synthesis.
In Music: A Subversive History in just under 600 pages he explains the history of music from when some prehistoric hunter realized that his bow string made a sound, and turned it into a predecessor of the violin, to the era of star techno producers who DJ in Ibiza for staggering amounts of money. Gioia discusses, for example, how ancient peoples recognized the different music the wind made as it blew through different kinds of trees and how they tried to imitate it, the ever-complex relationships of sex and violence with songs, how Pythagoras turned music into a mathematical discipline, or the way songs - especially those we call hymns - harangue us and make us feel part of the group we sing them with.

From marginalization to respect

But beyond these intuitive and extraordinary facts, Gioia immediately puts his thesis to the test: interesting music is the work of outcasts or slaves, born in places that society despises and gradually makes its way to respectability. The elegant songs of Western troubadours, he says, actually have their origin in the songs of Muslim slaves in Spain. The Catholic Church fought with all its might against polyphonic music, which it considered demonic, but then embraced it because it realized it could not stamp it out. Bach became a symbol of Lutheranism and the German nation, but he was a rude guy, frowned upon by many of his contemporaries, who considered his complex music aberrant, and who married an almost teenage girl with whom he had 20 children (in his time, the joke was that "he never stopped hitting the organ").

But even if that were the case, 'Music. A subversive history' is one of the most lighthearted, striking and intelligent stories about music that can be found: not only because it draws on sources such as neuroscience, anthropology or paleontology (it is exciting to read that, in many caves, cave paintings are found where the acoustics were better, because their dwellers sang before the painted animals), or because it makes no pedantic distinctions between so-called classical music and so-called popular music, but also because of its cultured and lighthearted writing (very well translated by Mariano Peyrou), his humor and enormous erudition, and the ability to fit the music into its historical and cultural context.