Friday, February 05, 2010

Friday Ramble - Song

In the beginning was the word, and the word was sung.

According to a wealth of traditions on this island earth, existence began with a Singer and a creation song, a creation narrative sung or chanted at the dawn of time when all was a formless void. Everything in the world was sung into being, we are told, and sentient creatures (it seems) have been putting words and melodies together ever since: grosbeaks in the forest canopy, loons on the lake, wolves on a winter hill at nightfall, Orcas and great whales in fathomless ocean deeps, children seated around campfires or singing old skipping songs as they jump the rope, adults singing the happenings of their lives large and small and passing on lore and traditions to younger members of the clan, tribe, or community.

The gift of song lives deep within us, and we may well have learned to express ourselves in song first, long before we mastered telling time by the seasons or writing things out, scratching our primitive calendars and runic symbols on ancient antlers, animal bones and cave walls.

We sing in joy and sorrow or praise and thankgiving, we sing to bring peace of mind and comfort to others, and whether or not our efforts are tuneful, we sing in our own words and tongue and with the voice the Old Wild Mother gave us. I often think that the most beautiful songs of all are the lullabies we mothers and grannies sing to lull our children and grandchildren to sleep when they are small.

On this cold morning, I can hear chickadees and nuthatches singing merrily as they breakfast at the feeders beyond the window. I am reading (again) Neil Gaiman, and he said it (or rather wrote) it all beautifully:


In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.

They were sung.

The great beasts were sung into existence, after the Singer had done with the planets and the hills and the trees and the oceans and the lesser beasts. The cliffs that bound existence were sung, and the hunting grounds, and the dark.

Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughing stock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That's the power of songs.

There are other things you can do with songs. They do not only make worlds or recreate existence.

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys


Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo and thoughts. My younger dtr still likes me to sing a lullaby to her before sleep, though I don't have the best voice for sure. And the quote about laughter at emperors reminds me of the Canadian satirist Nancy White. I haven't heard her sing for a while.

donna said...

Great writer, great book, great thoughts.

I like the idea of songs making the world. I like even better the idea of the world making songs in return...

Green Gal said...

This is a beautiful post, full of such amazing things. I love Neil Gaiman, and will now for sure put Anansi Boys on my reading list. Thank you for posting this wonderful lightened my day! :-)

judy said...

ah, serendipity yet again, Cate..
I looked up Neil Gaiman and followed a path that led me to "Wolves in the Walls".
That book was the beginning of a truly wonderful journey for me that has led me to my newest and happiest 'life' so far.
Of course you are reading him.. what else would I expect!