A part of me can never resist wondering what people in the past used to listen to, or participate in, music wise, no matter from which period they came from. How did music change within a person’s individual lifetime, how did it come to differ generationally, and what were there influences when it came to the composition of the music and their participation within it?
Perhaps now more than ever we as the audience can choose to listen to an almost infinite range of musical styles and genres, all (largely) accessible within easy reach of our fingers via the internet, television or radio mediums. Alternatively we can choose to actively participate in creating music by (for example) joining the school band, getting friends together to start a rock band, and/or by participating in communal music at important points of the year (such as at birthdays, weddings, christenings, Christmas and New Year celebrations, etc). Music can of course be made and produced by the individual or as a group activity, although it often includes an audience that watches and listens to the music produced and on occasion also join in with the performance. As such music is a particularly important part of the artistic expression of human emotion, helping to transcend and bond together visual activities with story telling into a compelling (and somewhat intangible) mixture.
Can we, as archaeologists, excavate music though? This is a topic I’ll be looking in 2015 as music plays a pretty important part in my own life and I am interested in focusing on the archaeological evidence for music in the past, particularly so in prehistory.
In the meantime I’ll leave you with a little festive compilation (and re-imagining) by the gravel throated singer and musician Mark Lanegan….