Updated: Sep 18
It was my usual morning routine -- making myself late for my first patient because I couldn't stop playing the guitar. I was playing a medley of Leo Kottke songs, which end with my version of his version of Buddy Holly's "Learning the Game."
Later that afternoon, my son came home from school, grabbed a guitar and instead of his usual Michael Hedges or John Renbourn repertoire, he started to play – yes – “Learning the Game.” He look at his left hand and wondered aloud, ‘Why am I playing this song…I don’t play this song…I don’t even like this song...so why am I playing this song?”
Hmm, do I tell him? Nah…
And what would I have told him? That “Learning the Game” (à la Kottke) was waiting for the better of the two guitarists in the house to come home to play it? And what did it do while it was waiting? Watch TV? Yack on the phone to commiserate with other Kottke cover songs? (Leo Kottke pictured above, photo by Dmileson)
Black holes in the Perseus cluster sing in B-flat
If music stays a lot longer than short term memory (see blog #3), this story raises the interesting possibility that music may not be so dependent upon the human brain to either generate or retain it.
The extracorporeal existence of songs is, of course a crazy idea – almost as crazy as, say, the idea that black holes in the Perseus cluster of galaxies sing in B-flat 57 octaves below middle C (pictured is an artist's impression from NASA/NASA/CXC/M.Weiss). And, apparently the black holes of M87 can hit notes as deep as 59 octaves below middle C (beat that, Perseus cluster!). And that they’ve been warbling for the past two billion years!
However, this ultra-bass singing of the black holes was empirically demonstrated by the astrophysicists at NASA and Cambridge University. And, according to Dr Steve Allen of Cambridge and Stanford, these sound waves aren’t “just an interesting form of black box acoustics…they may be the key to figuring out how galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe, grow.”
Every star chants out loud and strong
Empiricism is nice and all, but this knowledge may well have wafted in and out of realm of cultural beliefs throughout history -- and far from the Citadels of the Intellect. Consider these lines in the poem, “Harmonics” by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey (that Marla and I set to music…which will be on our next album…okay, shameless self-promotion stops here…):
All the universe
Is one mighty song,
Wherein every star
Chants out loud and strong
Each set note and word
It must aye rehearse.
Though the parts may jar,
The whole is as one chord.
But how does it all work? Well, we can start with this Greek guy who lived 2500 years ago that could really rock out on the kithara…