February 26, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

The History of Music: Exploring the Early Beginning

5 min read

Have you ever wondered how music began? How did humans first start making sounds and rhythms that felt good and brought people together? 

Let’s take a journey back in time and explore the early beginnings of music and how music evolved over time.

The Dawn of Music

Music is as old as humanity itself. Long before we had words to communicate, early humans were probably making music. Imagine our ancestors sitting around a fire, clapping their hands, stomping their feet, or perhaps even using sticks and stones to create rhythms. 

This early music may have been a way for them to express their feelings, share stories, or just have fun together.

The First Musical Instruments

The first musical instruments were probably quite simple. Early humans might have used their bodies to make music, like clapping their hands or using their voices. But as time went on, they started to get more creative.

One of the oldest known musical instruments is a flute made from a bird bone, found in a cave in Germany. 

This flute is about 40,000 years old! Imagine, all those years ago, someone carefully crafting this small instrument and then playing music on it. This tells us that music was an important part of life even then.

Here are some examples of historic and prehistoric instruments that were used by our ancestors:

Bone Flutes: 

As mentioned earlier, bone flutes are some of the oldest known musical instruments. The most ancient example discovered so far is around 40,000 years old and was found in Germany. These flutes were typically made from bird or mammoth bones.

Lithophones: 

These are musical instruments made from naturally occurring rocks or stones, often arranged in a row similar to a xylophone. A famous example is the Great Stalacpipe Organ in the Luray Caverns of Virginia, although this is a modern creation using an ancient concept.

Drums: 

Drums made from animal skins stretched over a frame of wood or bone are thought to be among the earliest percussive instruments.

Rasps: 

Prehistoric rasps were made by notching a bone and running another bone or stick along the notches to create sound.

Bullroarers: 

A bullroarer is an ancient musical instrument that consists of a piece of wood attached to a string. By spinning the wood around, it creates a humming sound. Bullroarers have been discovered in several ancient cultures around the world.

Shell Trumpets: 

Many early cultures used shells, particularly conch shells, as wind instruments. They would blow into one end to create a loud, trumpet-like sound. These were often used in spiritual or ceremonial events.

Lyres and Harps: 

Some of the earliest stringed instruments include the lyres and harps of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. The strings were typically made from animal gut, and the body of the instrument was made from wood.

Panpipes: 

Made from hollow reeds or bone, panpipes have been used by various cultures worldwide. The pipes are of different lengths and produce different pitches when blown.

Many of these instruments would have been made from organic materials, and so have not survived into the present day. Most of our knowledge about them comes from ancient artwork, writings, and the few remaining artifacts that have been discovered.

The Power of Voice

Our ancestors also learned that they could use their voices to make music. Singing might have started as a way to imitate the sounds of nature, like the songs of birds or the rustling of leaves. But over time, humans developed more complex ways of singing and even started to create songs with words.

Singing was probably a big part of early human communities. It could bring people together, help them express their feelings, and even tell stories about their experiences. This tradition of singing together is still very much alive today, from singing happy birthday at parties to singing national anthems at sporting events.

Music in Rituals

Since ancient times, people have used music in rituals and ceremonies. This could be a big celebration, like a festival or a wedding, or a quiet, sacred ceremony, like a prayer or a meditation. 

The music helps to set the mood and brings people together. It’s a way to express feelings of joy, sadness, respect, or gratitude.

For example, many cultures use drums in their rituals. The beat of the drum can be powerful and energizing. It can make people want to dance or it can make them feel connected to something bigger. Other cultures might use songs or chants in their rituals. These can be soothing and calming, helping people to focus their minds and feel at peace.

The Healing Power of Music

Music doesn’t just help us feel better emotionally. It can also help us heal. And it was very well utilized in the olden times for that very purpose. 

Many doctors and therapists use music today to help people who are sick or hurting. This is called music therapy. It can help reduce pain, improve mood, and even help people recover from illness faster.

Some hospitals play calming music in patient rooms. This can help patients feel less stressed and more comfortable. Other therapists might use music to help people express their feelings or to help them relax during a therapy session.

Music and Community

Music has always been a way for people to connect with each other. In early human communities, music might have been used in ceremonies or celebrations. It could help to strengthen the bonds between people and bring a sense of joy and togetherness.

Even today, music plays a big role in our communities. We listen to music at concerts, dance to music at parties, and even use music to help us relax or focus. Music can bring back memories, lift our spirits, and make us feel like we’re part of something bigger.

The Journey Continues

The story of music is a long and fascinating journey. From the early days of simple rhythms and sounds to the wide variety of music we have today, it’s clear that music is a fundamental part of being human.

And the journey is far from over. Every day, people around the world are creating new music, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and finding new ways to express themselves. The next time you listen to your favorite song, remember: you’re taking part in a tradition that’s as old as humanity itself.

That’s the beauty of music. It’s a timeless gift, a universal language that speaks to the heart. From its early beginnings to the exciting future ahead, music continues to be a way for us to express, connect, and simply enjoy the rhythm of life.

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1 thought on “The History of Music: Exploring the Early Beginning

  1. Great article! It’s amazing to think about the origins of music and how it has evolved over time. Music truly is a powerful force that brings people together and evokes emotions. Keep up the good work! 🎶

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