logo Enthusiasms No 59
A collection of shorter pieces on subjects of
interest, outrage or enthusiasm ...

Echoes of Our Forgotten Ancestors

Almost exactly two years ago I received a very interesting e-mail from Victor Grauer, who was one of the team which worked with Alan Lomax on his Cantometrics project back in the '60s.  He wrote 'I've recently become interested in Cantometrics again thanks to certain new developments in genetic anthropology.  Many things which had puzzled Lomax and myself about the distribution of musical styles worldwide are now making sense, thanks to the ability of these researchers to reconstruct some of mankind's earliest migrations from strands of DNA'.

He pointed me to a web page where he outlined some of the ideas he's been developing and, whilst I'm no academic myself, I suggested there were some truly earth-shattering ideas emerging from the work he's been doing with various genetic anthropology researchers.  Victor agreed to try to put together a user-friendly, non-academic version of it in the not-too-distant future, for publication in MT.

Sadly this was not to be, but his work has been published academically as Echoes of Our Forgotten Ancestors in The World of Music journal, from the University of Bamberg.  What's more, the user-friendly, non-academic version of it is currently being developed in a blog at: http://music000001.blogspot.com/   As with most blogs, there's an introductory piece followed by the most recent posting, so you need to start at the bottom to get the whole thing.  To do this, click on the '2007 (32)' link at the top of the 'Blog Archive' section, and then scroll right down to the bottom of the file for the 1. Introductory Remarks section.  Then work up through the numbered sections to the most recent post - currently No. 39.

You may also wish to have a look at the newly published MT Article, where Dr Grauer gioves a shorter, simpler version of the beginings of this work.

Whilst it's clearly quite a chunk of writing to wade through, I do urge you to have a look at it.  If, like me, you find it absolutely fascinating, you'll not see it as a chore at all - and may well wish to move on to the academic paper, where there are further details, fuller arguments, and lots of excellent sound clips of the music he's discussing.  In his introduction, Victor offers to send a free copy of this paper to anyone who contacts him requesting it.

So - what's Echoes ... about?  Very, very simply put, it's about the way genetic anthropology is providing evidence to back up the 'Out of Africa' theory of human migrations, and the extraordinary way that the Cantometric data amassed by Lomax and his team is seeming to validate that theory.  Furthermore, it seems that Victor Grauer's work is sometimes able to fill in some of the possible gaps where genetic anthropological data is a bit thin on the ground.

His introduction starts:

This Blog deals with theories I'm currently exploring regarding the early history and origins of some of the oldest musical traditions still alive in the world today, based on research presented in my recently published essay, Echoes of Our Forgotten Ancestors.  My work is based on intriguing parallels I've noticed between the distribution patterns of certain musical style families, and the general outlines of the 'Out of Africa' theory currently being explored in the field of genetic anthropology.  This blog should be of special interest to professionals and students in fields such as ethnomusicology, anthropology, archaeology, historical linguistics and population genetics.  However, I've made an effort to minimize the technical terminology in the hope that anyone with an interest in world music can follow most of the arguments.

It is centered around a rather outrageous claim on my part: that there is good evidence for believing that some traditions of our earliest 'modern' ancestors survive today, more or less intact, in the music of certain indigenous groups in Africa and elsewhere along the 'Out of Africa' trail hypothesized by so many genetic anthropologists in recent years.  While I could be wrong, what interests me now is what the ramifications for anthropology could be if I am right.

Seriously - check it out; you'll be in for some major surprises.

Rod Stradling - 19.6.07


Rod Stradling - e-mail: rod@mustrad.org.uk  Tel: 01453 759475
snail-mail: 1 Castle Street, Stroud, Glos GL5 2HP, UK

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