My mind reeled when I read this feature about a flute that may be over 43,000 years old, not simply because of the antiquity of this instrument, but for a host of other reasons that would require a small book to come close to doing them justice.
The implications of this discovery are astonishing, because it seems to me that for tens of thousands of years, the landscape inhabited by humans may well have echoed to the eerie strains of a thousand lost melodies, that gave pleasure to the performers and to their audiences.
It also seems to me that these ancient musical instruments may well have enchanted the beasts of the fields and the birds of the air, just as Orpheus is said to have done with his singing voice, while just one other alternate possibility of the power of musicians is suggested by the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
We know that there are people still extant who use a form of whistled language for long-distance communication, so I see no reason why the music produced by this early flute and others of its kind might not have performed an identical function.
I imagine too that our remote ancestors envisaged and worshipped their own lost gods, so any ceremonies or rituals they conducted may well have been accompanied by strange melodies, while I can’t help but recall that the works of H.P. Lovecraft contain many references to demonic, primaeval pipers and to other life forms producing a piping sound.
In our own age, we still have many supposed superstitions pertaining to whistling and to the performance of certain pieces of ‘forbidden’ music, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that there were parallels in the distant age when some forgotten musician enthralled all those around him with what must have been magical airs and threnodies.
Closer to home, Pytheas of Massilia wrote of priests of Apollo continually playing harps and singing hymns at places I believe to have been Vespasian’s Camp and Stonehenge, so it’s easy for me to envisage similar settings in remote, wooded caves in what is now Germany.
I could continue for hours – why use the thigh bone of a bear to make this flute? Did multiple prehistoric flautists ever discover harmony and if so, what interwoven melodies wafted across the landscape and through the cold night air? Did each clan or tribe possess its own signature tune? Were they accompanied by voices and ancient verse, as well as by primitive drums and other percussion? Was this music ever recorded in any way in their art?
I’ll have to leave the reader to ponder these matters for themselves, if they feel so inclined, but perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this feature is the report that the musician who performed such a stunning range of modern music on this ancient instrument apparently learned how to play it in a dream; I know of other musical works inspired by dreams, just two being ‘Yesterday’ and the Devil’s Trill, without looking them up, while I also know of and have previously written of many other discoveries that have come about as the result of dreams.
One of these days, I’ll have to dig out the records I made of my lucid dreams from a few years ago and it may possibly be that these strange visions will one day return, in which case I may well, if I’m able, gaze into the triangular stone structure atop a path-hewn sandstone mountain to see if this much-vaunted portal does indeed contain the revelations I was told it possessed.