We go through life hearing many expressions that are little pieces of philosophy, and perhaps we don’t give them much thought until one day an unexpected stimuli pokes us in the cerebrum.
Well, there’s one I’ve heard all my life. And just recently while sitting on the back porch and listening to a chorus of bullfrogs, I gave it some really serious thought.
How many times have you heard it said that music is “the universal language?” I guess maybe I was drawn into this deep thought when it hit me that a croaking bullfrog in South Georgia sounds just like a croaking bullfrog in Japan. I have no idea what they are saying but the frogs I was listening to seemed well orchestrated. They were singing in “rounds” I think. And it was like they would quit on queue and start on queue. There was one very deep-throated specimen that was located farther away from the orchestra, and it would continue as if it had a solo part.
I once saw a documentary that noted no matter how primitive a civilization might be, it always figured out how to reproduce, how to build fire without matches, how to make some form of booze and how to make music.
And did you ever stop to realize that while there is a tremendous difference in the spoken and written languages between the United States and Germany, a B flat sounds the same in both countries?
Then it further occurred to me that there are only 12 notes in all music. There are many different ways to connect those 12 notes, but just think that all of the orchestras and banjo pickers in the world use the same 12 notes.
Now please don’t think that I profess to be a great musician. I can pick Wildwood Flower on the guitar, and I can play Amazing Grace on the piano. I can also play a tambourine without wandering into the wrong key. I think the tambourine may have been invented with me in mind.
It’s also said that music can soothe the wild beast. Now I know the 12-note thing is a fact. I think the wild beast thing might just be something applied metaphorically to suggest that music can be used to calm and relax us. Also, it helps diminish the sound of the dentist’s drill. I would not take the wild beast thing literally. If you wander upon a grizzly and have the choice between a high powered rifle and a fiddle, I would go with the rifle.
I’ve noticed that communists and capitalists like to listen to music. Democrats and Republicans like to listen to music. Astronauts and flat earthers like to listen to music.
Now if we go deeper into this line of thinking, laughter is also the same no matter where you go. You don’t have to have a translator. As well, crying is quite universal, describing pain or sorrow or maybe even tears of joy. There are those moments that may bring tears and laughter. I noticed this while listening to a State of the Union address.
Applause is also universal. It means you approve or enjoyed something. And it can be used somewhat satirically, like displaying your feelings that the State of the Union address is mercifully over.
When I was in college, I was looking at my options for electives. My adviser suggested I take a music appreciation course. I told him that would be a waste of my time. He asked me why. I told them that I had always appreciated music. He looked at me in silence for just a moment, as if this was a concept he had never considered. And besides, I had a hunch that this course would not involve Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash or Brenda Lee.
Music may very well be a divine subliminal notation that there is more that joins us than separates us. Just think, a “C sharp” is the same note whether played on a steel guitar or an oboe and no matter whether it’s played in the Ukraine or on the Great Plains.
Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of the Moultrie Observer.