Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?
 

Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?

Search Forums: 
    
[-]
Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    02:52 on Friday, June 26, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post -4 votes

jose_luis
(2365 points)

Not drums, no,

Yes you guessed it!:

The flute. A couple of 35,000 years old flutes, one of them made of mammoth ivory have been discovered in Germany these days.

So we have the privilege of being, in a way, the tradition keepers for the most ancient music makers in the history of human mankind.

Happy fluting! let the sound of our oldest ancestors revive in our present music.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    12:13 on Friday, June 26, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

travel2165
(260 points)

It's fantastic news, but let's not jump to conclusions!

This particular instrument (and others like it) survived only because it was made of bone. There were doubtless older instruments here and elsewhere in the world, but their materials (wood, bamboo, etc.) made them disappear from the fossil record.

I'm sure that percussion instruments (idiophones) were used earlier than any wind (aerophone) or stringed (chordophone) instruments.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    02:52 on Saturday, June 27, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

CessiMarie
(152 points)

I agree with travel2165. And maybe voice should also be included as one of the oldest instrument.

But 35,000 years old is really astonishing!

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    05:20 on Saturday, June 27, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

jose_luis
(2365 points)

This was a supposed conclusion by scientists, but as expressed by the media, so it could be dubious.

Not my own and in any case we should read the official report when it is published and if made available. It would have been safer to write "the oldest musical (wind) instrument found to this date". But I was so enthusiastic about it....

Two instruments were found, but I only the ivory-made one was shown. The other was made for other material I could not understand clearly (the program was in French), but is related to birds. I understood "bird egg" which seems too improbable; it was probably "bird bone", though the sound difference for those words in French is important enough not to confound me. Anyway...

Without denying the immense capability of human voice to produce richly varied music, I think that voice could hardly be considered a musical instrument, as it is produced by a built-in part of our bodies and not by an "instrument". At least this is so in Spanish, according to the definition of our official dictionary.

In English the concept could be wider, to include parts of our bodies, such as the larynx for the voice and sing and the hands for manipulating objects. But everything we have in our bodies has some function and therefore could be considered to be an instrument for something, so the definition loses some strength.

Taken to the extreme, some people would say that "we are instruments of God", so denying our (presumed) free will. Sorry, it seems I woke up too philosophically inclined this morning.

My Webster says, for "instrument": a tool, an implement or utensil; a means by which something is performed or effected; any contrivance from which music is produced.

and for "contrivance": noun--> to plot, plan, scheme ...

As I heard on the news, it has been dated between 35K and 40K years ago. Which is indeed amazing, all other considerations taken apart.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    06:07 on Saturday, June 27, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

leighthesim
(471 points)

this is awesome, i love playing flute even more now(wasn't sure if it was possible)

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    11:24 on Saturday, June 27, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

CessiMarie
(152 points)

Regarding the bord-connection: The most well-preserved flute they found was made of vulture bone.

<Added>

"bird-connection"

Loved the philosophical detour. :)

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    11:33 on Saturday, June 27, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

DanTheMaster
(820 points)

Evidence suggests that the earliest humans actually communicated with music--via the voice. But as far as instruments other than the voice are concerned, I would dispute that percussion instruments came first. But the flute is almost indubitably the first wind instrument. So props to you guys, haha.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    18:30 on Saturday, June 27, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

jose_luis
(2365 points)

I notice now that in my tittle "human mankind" is redundant. Or am I wrong?

<Added>

I have confirmed with native English speakers that I should have used "Humankind" to express the concept I had in mind at that moment.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    05:30 on Sunday, June 28, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

jose_luis
(2365 points)

Check the following link, to read more about this find and also to get the thrill of listening to a reconstruction of the possible sounds they could get out of those ancient instruments:

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/44941/title/Stone_Age_flutes_found_in_Germany#flutesound


The most important fact for me is that the musical scale some 35,000 years ago was already more or less the same scale that is still used today in some parts of the world. This could be a proof that the sense of basic harmony is not culturally acquired but is something deeply built-in our brains and it has been there since a very, very long time.

How did this ability to perceive and enjoy certain intervals get there, at a time when everything needed to be strictly functional and useful for survival?

Is music so much important, then?

Sorry for drummers, but these finds seem to prioritize tune/melody to rhythm as a way to enjoy certain aspects of life.

Drums certainly were used (before or after 35,000 years ago, I do not know), but probably for other purposes: "long" distance communication, also very important for group/tribe survival, encouraging warriors to enter or fight a battle (exactly as today) and the like.

But the expression of nice, peaceful feelings and other soul related matters, such as love and court, were most probably left to our instrument.

Good questions and issues to think about, aren't they?


[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    16:59 on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

tim
(252 points)

cool. did it have soldered tone holes? was it a b foot?

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    19:11 on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

jose_luis
(2365 points)

Not really, being made of ivory. No head or foot joints, just one piece. Holes in the right place, for our present brain/ears some 35,000 years later.

Concerning the range, have a listen to the link I provided and may be you could tell me.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    04:49 on Thursday, July 02, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post -4 votes

Scotch
(591 points)

[DanTheMaster] Evidence suggests that the earliest humans actually communicated with music--via the voice.

What evidence?

But as far as instruments other than the voice are concerned, I would dispute that percussion instruments came first.

Have you personally unearthed an older percussion instrument then? It may seem to you that percussion instruments ought to have come earlier, but science relies on evidence, not vague intuition. The accomplishments of science in contradistinction to vague intuition speak for themselves.

But the flute is almost indubitably the first wind instrument

The evidence for this is precisely (and only) the evidence that the first instrument of any kind was the flute--that the oldest instrument we've found is a flute. You can't have it both ways.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    05:00 on Thursday, July 02, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post -4 votes

Scotch
(591 points)

[jose-luis] The most important fact for me is that the musical scale some 35,000 years ago was already more or less the same scale that is still used today in some parts of the world. This could be a proof that the sense of basic harmony is not culturally acquired but is something deeply built-in our brains and it has been there since a very, very long time.

If the scale in question is the anhemitonic pentatonic scale (I'm unable to listen to the link with this set-up), then the circumstance that it appears in autonomous musical cultures was already evidence (if not quite "proof") that it isn't culturally relative, but rather than "built-in our brains" it's built into our acoustic environment, for the anhemitonic pentatonic scale, like the Pythagorian diatonic scale, is built by taking of each pitch in turn the most prominent harmonic not an octave multiple, an extremely simple and basic algorithm.


[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    07:10 on Thursday, July 02, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

jose_luis
(2365 points)

Hi Scotch,

Your comment is very interesting, but I could not understand the algorithm you explained. Could you elaborate or provide some link where I can read about this?

It's a pity you cannot listen to the examples in my link. Please do as soon as you can modify your present setup and post your comments about what scale is the one being used.

<Added>

Also, I would appreciate your explanation of the difference between the "acoustic environment" (as we perceive it with our ears/brain system) and a kind of neurally wired-in perception of harmony (the kind we enjoy still today)

Just in case I sound too much challenging, please be sure I am not putting in question your assessments; you seem to know far more than I do in this subject and I am just curious to learn more about it.

[-]
Re: Which is the oldest musical instrument in human mankind?    03:12 on Friday, July 03, 2009 Vote for this post Vote against this post 0 votes

Scotch
(591 points)

It's a pity you cannot listen to the examples in my link. Please do as soon as you can modify your present setup and post your comments about what scale is the one being used.

Well, I might be able to on another computer, but this is the one where I usually find myself involved in these sorts of discussions. I'm really very, very curious to know what pitches this flute plays. Can you say in the mean time what pitches you think you're hearing?

Your comment is very interesting, but I could not understand the algorithm you explained. Could you elaborate or provide some link where I can read about this?

My term algorithm may be too grandiose. To put it in a pithy manner, we derive like scales by multiplying by integer powers of three, assuming octave equivalence (geometric modulo two).

To put it in a less pithy manner, let's assume the flute plays these notes (or some transposition): C, D, E, G, A. Ethnomusicologists call this the anhemitonic pentatonic scale, pentatonic because it has five notes, and anhemitonic because it has no semitones. It can be ordered as a series of perfect fifths: C-G-D-A-E.

Let's suppose we have a flute with no finger holes of such a length that it sounds a C when you blow into it. If you overblow with sufficient force it will sound the C an octave higher, and if you overblow with more force you can make it sound the G, a perfect twelfth (an octave and a perfect fifth)above the original C. This is possible because these notes are on the low C's overtone series (or, more scientifically, harmonic series), and overblowing is an easy way a person or a people with virtually no scientific culture can discover that the harmonic series exists. It's how I myself discovered it exists at age fifteen, in fact. (I used a soprano recorder.)

The frequency of the second C will be twice the frequency of the lower C. More generally an integer power of two times the lowest frequency will give us a pitch we designate with the same letter name, precisely because this arithmetical relation is so simple, and if we're to build a scale using the harmonic series in any way, as a practical matter we have to avoid these; they don't get us anywhere. As we ascend the series, successive harmonics are progressively softer. The loudest that is not a note we call C is the third harmonic, G, three times the frequency of the low C.

So if we derive G from the C series, we can analogously derive D from the G series and so on. If we stop at five pitches, we've got an anhemitonic pentatonic scale. If we stop at seven pitches, we've got a Pythagorian diatonic scale. If we stop at twelve pitches, we've got a Pythagorean chromatic scale.

Also, I would appreciate your explanation of the difference between the "acoustic environment" (as we perceive it with our ears/brain system) and a kind of neurally wired-in perception of harmony (the kind we enjoy still today)

I do not believe we do "enjoy" a "neurally wired-in perception of harmony". It's been shown, in fact, that our "ears/brain system" isn't even capable of telling us what fundamental a particular overtone belongs to. In other words, when a newborn baby listens to a flute sonata, it has no a priori way of knowing whether a given overtone was produced by the flute's fundamental or the piano's fundamental. This information is not hard-wired; it is gradually inferred or induced (from the "acoustic environment") as the baby grows and is exposed to more music.




   





This forum: Older: thinking about learning the flute
 Newer: anyone read this?



8notes in other languages:
             


 
© 2000-2014 8notes.com