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Adi & Praja 128

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 128: Discovery

He had also learned a lot from the book on medicine, and Moimoi could apply that knowledge. Her love for people (of the ‘right’ type at least) always guided her intuition in the right direction.


(a great discovery)

Shano had always loved to play his drums. He made them himself and experimented with different types of wood, different forms, and different ways of hollowing out the wood. He wanted to play with the sounds of the forest – and he believed that the sounds he brought forth with his drums were also living beings. Because they could make you happy or sad, make you dance or sleep, or reveal the soul of the tree of which it was made. He mostly played alone, or with a friend from another village who had the same understanding of nature as he had. They spend whole evenings together, reaching out to each other’s sounds and feelings. These were great evenings. They went on till deep in the night. Occasionally others came to listen also. Moimoi would do her little works in the home and feel happy. Sometimes she sang – she had a good voice, and she sang spontaneously, what sprang from her heart. When Dudu happened to hear this, she would also come, and shout as loud and ugly as possible with her voice. And when Moimoi came after her, she just disappeared in the dark of the forest, to manifest again three minutes later. Eventually the neighbors would set things right and peace returned.

The gamut of soft and loud, hollow and sharp sounds, low pitched and high pitched, and his rhythms were marvelous – but complex. That is why only few came to listen. He seemed to play with the good spirits of the forest, and had listened intently to cicadas, crickets, wooing birds like pigeons and the night calls of owls, and woodpeckers, fluting frogs, croaking toads, and the sounds of rivulets and dripping water, the wind whispering through the tree tops and more. He tried to imitate them all. He had invented drums with different pitches and different resonant spaces. Other musical instruments than a variety of drums didn’t exist in the forest.

Not everyone had such refined ears and nerves as Shano. But he could teach them basics and try to let them listen to more subtle sounds than they were usually aware of. Thus he collected a whole group of young pupils around him. Some would learn one or two types of drums, others even more. Some would also learn how to make instruments from wood, carve the bodies of the instruments with imagined figures of forest spirits, and the cleverest would develop their own instruments, but such people were rare.

Shano formed an orchestra of twelve different instruments from among the greatest talents among his pupils – and smaller ‘orchestras’ for everyone else. Once in a month, at full moon, they would give a performance – and people came from afar – days travel on foot or by boat. The music was as polyphonic and rich as the sounds of Nature herself. A good listeners could here the divine voices of the spirits through the drumming sounds. Such good listeners would gain more than others – it enhanced their refinement and spirituality. Moimoi would prepare a delicious meal for all, and everyone would bring something to add to the joy. Shano told the holy story again and again. Not as it had been given to him, because this would be beyond the grasp of most people. They would just be bored. Slowly Shano created more and more stories to explain the essence of the message of the scripture. Since he knew his people and their thought and emotional life very well, and the number of people in the forest was limited, he intuitively tailored the stories to be fit for the variety of human characters and human souls. The feasts lasted for hours – Moimoi had forbidden alcohol – but after some hours the alcohol came anyway. Then Shano and Moimoi would withdraw and go home. She would – only on full moon nights – put the golden ornament Shano had given her years ago around her neck and on her dark breasts, and Shano would play for her alone. For them the evening ended in peace and happiness.

One day Shano made another great musical discovery. On various places in the forest, often close to the river or a creek, their were big bamboos. They were quite high, almost as high as trees, though actually they looked like huge grass stalks. They had their own special atmosphere around them, different from any tree or scrub. Because Shano was always confined to the earth, the soil in the forest, he had never been able to reach up into the bamboos. So one day he was sitting there, near the big bamboo-stool in the village and was looking up. He wish that he could climb up or walk alone the stems like an ant. But of course that was merely another wish-dream. But his friends saw him look, and they took him on their shoulders so that he could see the stalks on a higher level, more than a meter above the ground. Shano, who was always full of rhythm inside, hit the bamboo softly with a stick, and he heard that it gave a hollow sound. That was not so unexpected, because everyone knew that bamboos were hollow and could be used for many purposes. But the sound was like a drum with a definite pitch. Then he hit the same bamboo above the next knot, and again a sound came. But is was of a different pitch, a somewhat higher pitch. Whereas drums has only one pitch, and if you want many pitches you have to make many drums of different sizes. When you make a drum from a hollowed piece of wood, is was never precisely predictable what would become its sound or pitch. Drums were in predictably like the raindrops.

The bamboo stalks had something special though: each individual stalk had different pitches, and above every knot the sound would be higher. Shano was intrigued. He spent half an our on his friends shoulders, asking them to move him higher and lower. It did not take long before he found that he could play a scale, from down to up, and from up to down. He called the different pitches high and low. Shano had discovered the first scaled instrument of nature. His friends had always beaten with sticks in the bamboos, and they knew that the sounds were different in some way, but they had never really noticed, let alone rationalized. But Shano discovered something that almost stopped his heart when he realized it. He felt that the way in which the different pitches in one stalk were related had its own feeling of beauty, a beauty that was profounder that any of the raindrops or brooks or rivers or rustling canopy leaves. There seemed to be a type of love between the hollow peaces between the first and the second knot, the second and the third, and the third and the fourth, and further. It seemed that the distances between the pitching were the same, yet not the same. This awareness changed his musical life. He felt that their must be some invisible spirit who had ‘built’ the whole bamboo stalk, and that spirit’s soul would be attuned to something beyond mere haphazardness. Haphazardness, of course, was a concept that did not exist in those days. Everything was seen as the action of some invisible spirit of a good and evil nature. But this spirit of bamboo had to have a kind of larger overview according to which the different pitches were attuned. It was a new feeling-concept. There was no word for it, at least not in common language, but later he discovered that in the book everything answered to that feeling – a awesome and very happy feeling. It was the same feeling he had always felt, but without mentally realizing it. Everything was fitting together in nature in some way, like pieces of wood of different kinds and sizes purposely made to fit together. A word did not exist for it, and we would call it harmony: the fitting together of sounds, or souls, together in a beautiful way. For many days Shano almost did not speak to anyone, because he was deeply immersed in this beautiful feeling, and equally harmoniously fitting thoughts of a beautiful nature would naturally arise in his mind. It was as if the gods or spirits themselves were present and showering blessings into his consciousness.

He further discovered that some piece of the bamboo stalk between two of its knots higher up sounded exactly the same as a lower one. He could not decide whether these two sounds were the same pitch or different ones.

Millennia in advance of the great Greek philosopher Pythagoras Shano had discovered scale, harmony and the octave. He saw that their was a fixed relation between the relative lengths of the pieces and the sounds they produced. Within weeks he developed a new instrument, a multi-pitched and harmonious instrument, indeed the first xylophone, in the forest. He loved it more than any of his drums. From now on music would be played, no feast would be celebrated without the ‘xylophone’ as we call it, or the spirit of the bamboo as they called it.

Of course this new invention became known to other villages in no time. Every child and many grown-ups wanted to try it. They came from everywhere. Shano built a few more of these instruments for other villages.

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