Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why do we listen to beautiful music about heartbreak and misery?

Why do we human beings write beautiful songs about heartbreak and misery? Above is a video of Dwight Yoakam singing his classic heartbreak song, "It won't hurt," demonstrating his ability to take the genre to a very high level indeed. In fact, a catalog of Mr. Yoakam's songs would reveal that a very high percentage of his work deals with heartbreak and misery (even more than most country music, which as a whole has a higher percentage of such work than other categories of music). The studio version of this particular song can be purchased on this album.

Country music, of course, is not the only style which writes beautiful, harmonic music about heartbreak. Here is a link to a classic Peter Tosh song, "Why must I cry," which shows that reggae, perhaps one of the most upbeat and "happiest-sounding" styles of music ever made, can be just as evocative and deal with the subject of heartache and misery just as eloquently as can Dwight Yoakam. The song above can be purchased as part of Peter Tosh's outstanding first solo album.

So, what motivates the age-old human urge to write such beautiful melodies about such a miserable experience? Those who have experienced heartbreak in love probably know the answer instinctively -- because such music is actually therapeutic. Music can heal -- the ancient Greek god Apollo was both the god of music and the god of medicine.

We have discussed in previous posts the fact that the mere sound of a drum or other rhythm evokes a physical response in us, almost unconsciously. It is clear that music and sound (which is composed of wavelengths) has an actual impact on the human body, which is itself designed to resonate. We have also seen that, at least in shamanic cultures, there is a perceived link between time, rhythm, and the planets.

It is well-known that some people believe that talking to plants in a positive way will be beneficial for their actual growth. While this has never been clinically proven thus far, there are plenty of anecdotal stories suggesting that there may be some truth underneath this widespread belief. There is also the incident recorded in Matthew 21 and Mark 11 in which Christ curses a fig-tree, which then withers. He tells his disciples:
Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. Matthew 21:21.
This is clearly a very heavy subject, but it relates directly to the thesis outlined in Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, by John Anthony West (first published in 1979). In that book, which examines and elaborates upon the insights of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887 - 1961), Mr. West demonstrates that the ancient Egyptians were well aware of the power and importance of proportions, harmonies, and the Golden Ratio, and that concern for the impact of these harmonies was foundational to everything they did for nearly four thousand years.

The Golden Ratio is related to music and harmony, because sound is made up of waves, and changing the wavelength changes the tone that is produced (just as it changes the color of light). This principle is the reason that guitarists place their finger on various strings to change their vibration and the wavelength of the tone they produce.

The Golden Ratio is found in countless monuments of antiquity, not just the pyramids of Giza but also Stonehenge (which is closely related to the pyramids, as discussed here), the Parthenon, and numerous others in the New World and the islands of the Pacific as well. It is also found in numerous proportions in the natural world, in plants, trees, flowers, insects, amphibians, reptiles, and even the human body.

The importance of the Golden Ratio and its prevalence in ancient monuments is discussed in one chapter of The Mathisen Corollary book. However, the work of John Anthony West really takes the examination of this subject to the deepest level and proposes a completely revolutionary thesis regarding what the ancient Egyptians were all about.

Those who are skeptical of the power of proportions and harmonies should consider the power of music, which they have probably experienced themselves. There is much more that can be said on this subject.