As the weather turns, the vaccinations increase, and people’s interest turns to. . .outside seating at bars, perhaps a few trivial things may help you win some bar bets:
First musical instrument
Let’s face it: horns are not a big part of rock. There was certainly a period when there were brass-led bands that made some significant music—the prime example of this is the original Blood, Sweat & Tears, formed by Al Kooper, which should not be confused with the Blood, Sweat & Tears of “Spinning Wheel” (although it should be acknowledged that lineup of the band did perform at Woodstock). And for a resonant experience, just listen to the opening of Otis Redding’s cover of “Try a Little Tenderness” (Redding performed at Monterey Pop in 1967 and probably would have played two years later at Woodstock, had he not died in a light plane crash on the way to a gig in ’67).
Turns out that the first musical instrument—one from 17,000 year ago—may have been a horn. Back in 1931 a conch shell was discovered in a cave in France. The cave had various human remains, including drawings on the walls. The shell had a hole in one end. It was thought that the hole, at the end of the shell, had simply been broken off. After all, the thing is 17,000 years old.
Earlier this year a paper was published in Science Advances, “First record of the sound produced by the oldest Upper Paleolithic seashell horn.”
There was a great quote in a Brian Eno interview in the March issue of MOJO where they asked him whether he thought it was as easy to innovate in 2008 as it was back in the 70s, and whether innovation is even necessary anymore:
A lot of what is going on at the moment is kind of recycling and I find that very, very interesting. It’s as though the palette that musicians have available now is every style that has existed for the last 50 years or so. I mean, I even see it with my daughters. The content of their iPods is completely, insanely eclectic. They’ve got everything from doo wop to hip hop and everything in between. Which, when you think about it, it’s as if I would have listened to music from 1906, when I first started listening to music. It’s ridiculous! Even stuff from 10 years earlier seemed hopelessly out of date.
And of course when you select a cultural block – like, to have it sound “kind of ’80s” – you are recording more than just sounds. You are recording a story as well and a kind of image of what people are like and how they could be.
This is still completely original behaviour but it doesn’t look original because it’s recombining blocks that we think we recognise. But I think once they are recombined you hear them differently. I must say I have suddenly started to realise something I’ve never really understood before, which is the point of bands like Human League. I don’t dislike them but they made no impression on me when they were around. But with them replayed and recycled, I can suddenly see their point. So I get them second time around.
Fogeyists love to complain about how there’s nothing new anymore. At least nothing good. It’s nice to see someone of Eno’s legendary stature thinking otherwise.