177 episodes

Join VPR Classical host James Stewart on a journey into the events, characters and concepts that shaped our Western musical tradition. We'll start at the very beginning and trace the steps of music through history. This music, and its history, is ours.

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    • Music
    • 4.4, 10 Ratings

Join VPR Classical host James Stewart on a journey into the events, characters and concepts that shaped our Western musical tradition. We'll start at the very beginning and trace the steps of music through history. This music, and its history, is ours.

    167 - Canticle of the Creatures

    167 - Canticle of the Creatures

    We’ve been exploring all the ways that music has changed the world and us. In this episode we’ll discover that music might belong to more than just humanity. So many creatures on our shared planet also have a voice.

    • 3 min
    166 - Singing: The First Art

    166 - Singing: The First Art

    “In the beginning was the voice. Voice is sounding breath, the audible sign of life.” Those beautiful words were written by Otto Jespersen, an early 20th century Danish linguist, in the book Language, Its Nature, Development and Origin. Jespersen was on to something with that statement, voice as “the audible sign of life.” It reminds me of another popular quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”

    • 3 min
    165 - Born To Dance

    165 - Born To Dance

    You’re at a wedding reception, this song starts to play and suddenly the dance floor is full of people moving together in rhythm. The crowd intuits the pulse of the music, corporately agrees on where the beat is and starts to move together. That’s how group dance works. This ability is something we share as humans and with other members of the animal kingdom. But do we ever think about what it takes to make this happen? How do we dance together and why?

    • 4 min
    164 - Which Came First, Language Or Music?

    164 - Which Came First, Language Or Music?

    Which came first, language or music? It’s not just a “chicken or the egg” type of question. Many linguists and theorists have debated this subject. For a long time the accepted norm stated that music appears “to be derived from language,” meaning that music is a subset of verbal communication. But modern research is painting a different picture. There’s an earlier episode of Timeline called “Baby Talk” that dives into that research regarding the development of human communication.

    • 3 min
    163 - 40,000 BCE: A Musical Odyssey

    163 - 40,000 BCE: A Musical Odyssey

    Do you remember the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”? The director starts a movie about space by first showing us early humanity. We are introduced to two warring factions of hairy proto-humans, yelling and grunting at one another over some unknown conflict. That night one of the tribes wakes up at sunrise to a strange, black, rectangular object. In the shadow of this monolith, one of the members of the tribe picks up a bone and examines it. After a moment, it begins to beat the ground with this first “tool.”

    • 3 min
    162 - When Music Changed The World

    162 - When Music Changed The World

    Over the years we’ve talked about a lot different subjects and explored the development of music throughout history. We’ve had deep discussions about where music comes from and what music is. We’ve looked at the ways music touches our lives and influences our health and behavior. We’ve explored the ancient past and modern practice. However, over the past few months I’ve been asking a question, “so what?” What does all of this mean? Maybe a better question is, for what? What is this exploration for?

    • 3 min

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