The most ancient sounds made by man

The first sound instrument of man was his body, from which he drew the physical, but also intellectual resources, essential to improve his existence and to extend the control over nature. This was possible by virtue of a multi-millennial technological development which, starting from the simple chipping of the first stone, through the control of fire and of the earth’s cycles, allowed humankind to devise more and more advanced techniques to control natural phenomena. It is not at all easy for the scholars to document this backwards path all the way to history’s dawning, using a method which didn’t always let one highlight, beyond the measured words of the archaeologists, the daily human struggle to survive.

The bifaces were the result of an operation consisting of giving shape to a flint with a series of blows given with a percussion instrument. The hand makes the instrument following an orderly sequence of movements. To the rhythmical repetition of the gesture produced by flint corresponds a regular series of sounds.

“They showed us axes of cut flint, axes of polished flint, then bronze axes – Marcel Jousse says – and when we leaf through these tables, these pages, we have the impression, or at least I had it once, that this “homo faber” was nothing but a sort of skeleton that manufactured dead tools. Nobody ever showed us man’s fight with himself and how he obtained his first tool from his own body”.

boscimani 2
Orange State, South Africa (by Lewis Williams). Bushmen group, hunter and gatherer population of the Kalahari Desert engaged in a dance.  At the center of the ceremonial space some shamans perform the mantis dance (Kaggen), the being creator, while all around men and women close the circle rhythmically accompanying the dance with the beating of the hands. The events mimed in the dance are part of a cycle of myths about the creation of the world that the aborigines are handed down from generation to generation.

The first passage of man in the production of sound forms was that of imitating the sounds of nature directly with his own body, using his voice, hands, feet to strike the earth, the first natural resonating matter. A further passage occurred through the combination of some sound elements (rattles hanging to the body to accompany the dances, ropes and films in the mouth to produce effects with the voice) and the use of other objects (fallen trunks, stones, skins, reeds, etc.). Singing and percussion preceed the use of musical instruments. 

flauti preistorici
The four most ancient non-natural instruments, such as stone, but manually retouched to produce sounds: the whistle, the bullroarer, the scraper, the flute.

Autore: Gaudenzio Ragazzi

(English). My name is Gaudenzio Ragazzi, a long time ago I graduated in Philosophy with a master in History of Theater. To realize my thesis on the "origins of dance", a theme that still today boasts only two or three specialized researchers in the world, I became a scholar of Prehistoric Iconography. In the last thirty years I have not been able to escape the responsibilities of life. So, after the death of my father, I led the family artisan company that produces tailored shirts. A few years ago I decided that it was time to resume my studies and complete the research I had started as a young man (that nobody else had yet completed). Good luck Gaudenzio! Mi chiamo Gaudenzio Ragazzi, molto tempo fa ho conseguito la laurea in Filosofia con specializzazione in Storia del Teatro. Sono diventato uno studioso di Iconografia Preistorica per realizzare la mia tesi di laurea sulle "origini della danza", argomento che ancora oggi vanta nel mondo solo due o tre studiosi di una certa levatura. Negli ultimi trent'anni non ho potuto sottrarmi alle responsabilità della vita. Così, dopo la morte di mio padre, ho guidato l'azienda artigiana di famiglia che produce camicie su misura. Alcuni anni fa ho deciso che era arrivato il momento di riprendere i miei studi e di fare da vecchio quello che non ho potuto fare da giovane (e che nessun altro nel frattempo aveva completato). Buon lavoro Gaudenzio !


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