To Neanderthal or not? LO26232

From: Magic Circ Op Rep Ens (
Date: 02/27/01

Replying to LO26211 --

Don Dwiggens said:
>but one bit near the beginning leaped out at me:
> > The Cro Magnons used art to carry information across space.
> I read that sentence three times, and I'm still not sure what you meant by
> it. I have some ideas about what you _might_ have meant, but I'd love it
> if you could elaborate a bit on art as an information carrier (while I
> appreciate several kinds of art, I can't say my understanding of it is
> very deep).

As near as we can tell, the Neanderthals had no art. Art is a holistic
expression of a time and place of the artist to the time and place of the
observer. That can be a ritual of power over generations as the cave
paintings are believed to be or it can be a song, a dance, or a story that
tells more than just the raw data of an event.

Writing was initially used to trigger longer songs that filled out the
event. We call these things Talking Leaves and we have always had them
although we were considered non-literate until Sequoia brought out the
Cherokee Syllabury. I don't mean to draw a 25,000 year parallel but it is
well known that non-literate people have great memories. Poetry and song
is one of the most powerful tools to maintaining the order of that memory.
A child can learn a song that goes all day long after a single hearing.
Once they learn to write, the forget how to remember. But writing has its
own art that begins in the picture.

Much writing around the world is tied to pictures and aesthetics that
carry more than just the facts and order within which the information is
encased. Poetry was the European way of making events both open up and be
more time-space specific at the same time. For example Dylan Thomas says
"It was my thirtieth year to heaven." and then describes the shore
beneath his window as the "heron priested shore." These graphic words
give not only the event and the way the shore looked, the attitude of the
herons, but how he felt about his thirtieth birthday.

To dance the dance of your ancestors or to sing their songs is to do
exactly the same things that they did in exactly the same way. It is to
know them in a way that reading or seeing a photograph can never give you.
It was the advantage of art as an information envelope and a symbolizer of
new thoughts carried over both time and distance that meant that
coordination between groups was possible. It was such coordination that
made Gengis Kahn's army so invincible in spite of all of the metal
technology that Europe possessed.

It is the pure abstraction of music that carries us beyond the concrete
into the "systems that lie beneath things" much as Math was later to do.
To do that together is to experience the kind of Learning/muscular bond
that would later be used in the march to create armies and conquest.

It is pure hypothesis, since we have so little information from 25,000
years, but we can surmise that art is a very powerful information tool to
have, especially if your enemy is disconnected. Art is as connected to
brutality and violence as it is to subtlety, balance, grace and love. As
powerful as it is we still have to chose how to use it.

Today we pay more for Military Bands then we do for orchestras. I loved
the bands and choruses when I was in the Army Chorus but there is no doubt
why they are important to the military. Would that we would understand it
in the term "Domestic Tranquility" found in the Preamble to the American
Constitution. That bit of wisdom could put American identity and culture
light years ahead of the current situation.

Ray Evans Harrell, artistic director
The Magic Circle Opera Repertory Ensemble. Inc.


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