I usually played one Gregorian chant each year. It was intriguing that normally rowdy students suddenly became quiet or talked in hushed whispers. The simplistic style is similar to music heard, for thousands of years, in churches, temples, mosques, monasteries, kivas, ceremonial chambers, perhaps even caves. Ironically, I did not play it for “religious” reasons, but in hopes that students would transcend 100,000 years (before all religions) to the period when our ancestors began to perceive that they were sacred beings.
We had four, 36”x 12”, Infinity Concert, Surround-Sound Speakers and sometimes I cranked up Johann Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” (or other signature piece) to about 75 dB which made the walls vibrate. Other students would stop and gawk and wonder what kind of weird biology class was being conducted.
I loved the transformative power that music added to the class and had many favorites. However, there was one pop song that was extraordinary. The artist was Zamfir, and his pan flute rendition of “The Lonely Shepherd,” resonated with every cell in my being. He captured the feeling of loneliness which was a feeling I identified with. Not surprisingly, I was not alone. John Muir, Loren Eiseley and Henry Thoreau all described times of feeling lonely and isolated. It wasn’t so much a bad sad, but a melancholic tinge that Zamfir captured in his spirit-stirring song. It was born out of the realization that Christie was the only person who truly knew what my hopes, dreams and aspirations for Biodesigners were. I understood that many of the ideas that I shared might not take root or grow until years later.
It may seem strange to think of a teacher camping with 30 students as being lonely, however, even as close as we often grew together, still, there was a necessary gap between us. Although I experienced amazing joy and positive feed-back, I also had to deal with rejection, hostility, doubt and occasional recrimination. At times like these my musical friends and mentors stood by to offer me soothing solace.
Excerpt: “The Immense Journey,” by Loren Eiseley.
“As a modern man, I have sat in concert halls and watched huge audiences floating dazedon the voice of a great singer. Alone in the dark box I have heard far off as if ascending out of some black stairwell the guttural whisperings and bestial coughings out of which that voice arose…Ironically enough, science, which can show us the flints and broken skulls of our dead fathers, has yet to explain how we have come so far so fast, nor has it any completely satisfactory answer to the question asked by Wallace long ago (Where did music come from?) Those who would revile us by pointing to an ape at the foot of our family tree grasp little of the awe with which the modern scientist now puzzles over man’s lonely and supreme ascent.”