Dr. Kathryn Ladano

#929: “The Neanderthal Flute”

RECORD STORE TALES #929:  “The Neanderthal Flute”

When Beethoven invented music in 334 BC, he had no idea we would owe him a debt of gratitude over two millennia later.   When his friend, Presley of Elvis, heard this wonderful sound, he decided to pin some strings to a piece of wood and created the first guitar.

That’s how it all started right?  Beethoven, Bach, Elvis, the Beatles?

Music has likely been with us since the dawn of abstract thought.  Ancient evidence is difficult to find, since most musical instruments would have decayed to nothing over tens of thousands of years.  Without physical remains, an “invention” of music is difficult to date.  Even musical notation came much later.  According to Dr. Kathryn Ladano at Wilfrid Laurier University, those who played ancient music “were improvisers. Improvisation has to be the oldest and first form of music, before anything was written or passed down in the oral tradition.”

The oldest musical artefacts we have are flutes made of bone.   The most ancient of these could be the 45,000 year old Divje Babe flute, discovered in Slovenia in 1995.  It was dated using the Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) technique.  The bone is commonly called the “Neanderthal flute” but there is no consensus on who made it…if anyone.   If indeed it is a flute, it would be the oldest known musical instrument ever found.

There are other, younger known bone flutes, but the Divje Babe femur would be the most ancient found by far.  What we do know with certainty is very little.  It has never appeared on a Jethro Tull album for one thing, which is truly unfortunate.  The Divje Babe flute is a broken juvenile cave bear bone, with two clear holes, and possibly the remains of two more at either broken end.  Bones with holes in them are common.  Rather than a flute, it could just be a fluke – a piece of bear femur, pierced by the teeth of a predator.

We have theories.  Was the bone just left as-is by an animal?  Both ends are damaged, probably by a predator looking for the tasty marrow inside.  Tests were made with metal castings of various predator teeth.  The hole alignment does not match any known animal’s teeth, but the holes could have been made at different times rather than simultaneously.  Canadian musicologist Bob Fink thinks it unlikely that such a situation would result in four holes in a straight line.  Tests also showed that bones often broke when trying to duplicate an animal bite.  Finally, we can’t rule out that the holes could be a modern hoax, nor can we rule out Ian Anderson as a suspect.

As humans, we hope the bone is the first known musical instrument and there is some evidence to support that.  For one, the bone appears to be cleaned of marrow, since the inner and outer surfaces are the same colour.  This would be necessary if it were a flute.  The holes are also quite circular, which is unlike most oval-shaped bite holes.  There are no marks on the bottom of the bone, which you would expect if it was between an animal’s jaws.  It takes a lot of pressure to bite a hole in a bear femur.  However there are also no tool marks, which are common on actual man-made bone flutes.

Here’s the most interesting evidence, if not the most compelling.  According to Fink, the four holes line up with the “do, re, mi, fa” of the diatonic scale.  Can you imagine?  45,000 years ago, somebody playing “do re mi” on a bone flute.  Perhaps for ceremonial, religious reasons.  Maybe just to entertain the tribe with a hit song.  Binding communities together, person by person.  Expanding the capabilities of the human brain one note at a time.  The same scale we play today.*

Before you get too excited about the possibilities, the bone is a juvenile cave bear and would not have been very long even before it was broken.  One study (by Nowell and Chase) indicates that the bone would have had to be twice its natural length to play the diatonic scale.  Fink countered this with the possibility of an added mouthpiece that extended its length.

Why not use modern technology to create a replica flute and try to play it?  In 2011, Matija Turk and  Ljuben Dimkaroski did just that.   Their study showed “it was possible to perform a series of musical articulations and ornamentations such as legato, staccato, double and triple tonguing, flutter-tonguing, glissando, chromatic scales, trills, broken chords, interval leaps, and melodic successions from the lowest to the highest tones.”  Furthermore Dimkaroski found that a longer bone was not necessary to play music.  The reconstructed instrument had a three and a half octave range and was less like a flute and more akin to modern woodwinds.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the flute is that it could have been made by our Neanderthal cousins, which would prove that music is a trait shared by two species and not just ours.  Even if the bone really was carved by Neanderthals, there is no way for us to know for certain.  It could have been left in the cave much later on by a wandering human.

We do not have all the answers yet, but the possibility of the same musical scale that we use today being at least 45,000 years old is an enticing one.  It sets the imagination on fire with possibilities.  You could go back in time and play “Heartbreak Hotel” on this ancient flute in that dark cave, if the theories hold true.  What an incredible thought that is.

 

* Dr. Ladano notes, “Even if it didn’t match with the western major or minor tonal system, it isn’t any less valid. Other cultures use different scales and maybe the maker of this flute used a different scale system as well.”

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: Chantal Kreviazuk – Friday, February 12, 2021 (Sessions Live) by Dr. Kathryn Ladano

Review by Dr. Kathryn Ladano

CHANTAL KREVIAZUK – Friday, February 12, 2021 (via Sessions Live)

I’m going to preface this review by saying that at the start of the pandemic, I spoke openly about how I didn’t like virtual concerts and didn’t think they could ever replace live concerts. While I still feel that virtual concerts can’t and won’t replace live concerts, now, after viewing a number of virtual events, I’m seeing that they are simply different animals. And the best virtual concerts I’ve seen are the ones that embrace the fact that it’s a different and new platform. In other words, the ones that aren’t trying to be replacements for live concerts. Friday night (February 12 2021) I attended Chantal Kreviazuk’s live-streamed concert presented by Sessions Live, which definitely falls into the category of digital concerts that embrace the platform, and in the process give you something new and innovative, and in this case, really intimate as well.

Chantal’s concert was streamed from her own home. We got to see her perform on her own piano with a simple black background with three of her own paintings in the background with a couple of candles in front (we learned during the concert that the artwork was all painted by Chantal and put on display for the live concert by her husband, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace). There was a single camera being used that allowed the audience a side view of Chantal and her piano as she performed. The format was very unique: She had no pre-determined set list going into the concert. Instead, she asked for audience requests via social media leading up to the concert, and then also took requests via the chat option on the Sessions Live platform. You really felt that you were witnessing something new and special. Nothing was pre-planned, which meant that Chantal would get requests for songs that she hadn’t played in decades. What I loved about this was that instead of just skipping over those requests, she tried to play the songs anyway – even when she couldn’t remember the lyrics and wasn’t sure of the melodic or harmonic material either. As an artist myself, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have even attempted to play something for an audience that I wasn’t 100% confident in my ability to do – so I really, really admire her for doing this. The music was all about the fans – not her image, not her vanity, not to display her skills as a pianist or singer. I feel that this is exceptionally rare, and it was one of the things that made the night so special.

In addition, doing the concert from her home meant that you got a little glimpse into Chantal’s life. At one point she wanted some water, so she grabbed her phone and texted Raine upstairs, asking him to bring down a glass (during the middle of her live stream!). Raine arrived a couple minutes later with a glass of white wine instead of water. While Chantal wanted him to appear on camera, he refused and all we saw was his hand as he handed over the glass of wine. During her performance of “Before You”, which she sang right after receiving the glass of wine, and she referred to as Raine’s song, she tried to keep herself composed as her 12-year old son mimicked and did impressions of her off camera. These are the types of things that may seem trivial, but you’ll never see them as a part of a live show. As I said earlier, this show was just about the fans and what they wanted to hear, as well as creating an intimate and unique experience from home.

While I am most certainly fan of Chantal’s music, I must be perfectly honest and confess that I am primarily a fan of her first two albums. I own the first four, but I mostly just listen to the first two. When she first emerged in 1997 with the album Under These Rocks and Stones, her music hit me hard at a pivotal moment in my life. I was in my early 20’s and the raw and angst-filled themes in those songs resonated with me in a way that no other music did. The first album does have some happier themes, but it also deals with loss, low self-esteem, feeling that one lacks in social prowess, death, unhealthy relationships, and feeling like one doesn’t deserve to be treated well by others. Chantal is only 2 years older than me, so I believe she was likely writing about what young women of that age feel and experience – and boy did it speak to me. Her second album, Colour Moving and Still was also a big favourite of mine. At this point in her life she was with Raine (she got married to him the same year the album was released), and you could begin to hear the influence of those “happier” themes in her music (such as in the song “Before You”). While this album wasn’t as dark thematically, it still had some very powerful material and still dealt with themes of death, loss, separation, and uncertainty. While the first album was more emotionally raw, the second album was more musically strong. Chantal is a classically trained pianist and you can really tell – there’s no doubt that she has chops. As someone who was studying music performance in university at the time, this was another reason why her music resonated with me. The music and the piano playing were so much more sophisticated than most of the other popular music I was hearing at the time. As I said earlier, the first two albums are what I’m mostly a fan of. That’s not to say her later music isn’t as strong, it just didn’t impact or resonate with me the same way, so I’ve found myself less attached to it (even though I love many of the singles from her third and subsequent albums). Chantal writes from within – from her own life. And I think that when she got into a happy marriage and had kids, her music shifted along with her lifestyle, and I just didn’t exactly shift with it. I couldn’t relate to it the same way.

That being said, last night’s concert was a real treat because many of the fans sending in requests were asking for songs from the earlier albums. While I think I may have forgotten a song or two, I do recall the following songs being performed: “Feels Like Home”, “Time”, “Green Apples” (she couldn’t quite remember all of this one), “Souls” (she also couldn’t quite remember all of this one), “Before You”, “Unforgivable”, “All I Can Do”,  “What if it All Means Something”, and “Surrounded”. She also sang a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to an audience member named Jennifer. This is where I learned that Chantal’s real name is Jennifer, and Chantal is actually her middle name. She mentioned that this concert was one in a set of three that will be coming up over the next little while. She also ran out of time and promised that the next performance would feature “Wayne” from the first album (the song that hooked me as a fan), and “Wings” from her most recent album. I also have a song named “Wings” on my latest album! But they couldn’t sound more different from one another.

In addition to the concert ticket, I also purchased a one-on-one meet and greet with Chantal following the show. It was very brief, but really great (each person had only 3-minutes, but she did go a little over with most people I think). I was very nervous and while I had several questions and comments pre-planned, I didn’t actually get any of them out. Instead I asked her about her dog who jumped into her lap during our chat. She is very personable though and I really appreciated even just having a couple minutes to talk to her like anyone else. I did want to tell her how much her first two albums impacted me, but I didn’t get that out either. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be attending the next live-stream in mid-March.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

New Year’s Eve Drop-In Party Extravangza

I haven’t stayed up til midnight on a New Year’s Eve in a dog’s age, but I did it tonight…for you!

Tonight’s drop-in special ran over three hours and we still failed to squeeze in Aaron from the KMA.  Huge apologies to my buddy Aaron.  Hopefully I’ll make it up to you next week for the ZZ Top show.

Special guests tonight were invited to drop in and read their Nigel Tufnel Top Ten lists, and each guest chose their own theme for their lists!  Guests included:

  • Dr. Kathryn Ladano – 0:17:45
  • DekeSpecial KISS report0:40:50
  • Scotty P – 0:45:30
  • Uncle Meat – 1:21:00
  • Mike’s Mom – 2:16:25
  • Michael, Max the Axe’s Stunt Double – 2:34:40

Once again sincere apologies to Aaron for not getting to him in time.

I also played some music tonight, five songs that make my skin vibrate (and don’t set off copyright strikes).  Enjoy the show

 

 

Schnauzer Report Cards

Spring 2011, I found myself dogsitting.  There were three Schnauzers:  Lacey, Ani, Ali.  I am glad that I kept a record of that day.  Oh, the memories (and my eardrums)!  One of the pooches was so ill-behaved that I went to the trouble of writing up a report card for when their human-mommies came home.  I stuck it to the fridge so the doggies could be judged by everyone.

Incidentally the artwork at top was by a young Dr. Kathryn Ladano long before she was a Dr.  It is titled “The Rad Schnauzer”.

 

Soundtrack Stream! Nigel Tufnel Top Ten with Rob Daniels and Surprise Guest!

Thanks to Rob Daniels for not one but two awesome lists, and terrific co-hosting duties!   The knowledge of this man is unsurpassed.   Down to microscopic detail, Rob is able to discuss virtually any soundtrack on a dime.  This show was long overdue!  It was the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Soundtracks with lists from:

My hope is that this show will give you some new music to check out,  I know I’ll be adding some discs to my wishlist.  You’ll have to watch and see!

An extra-special thanks to Dr. Kathryn for her first video appearance and an awesome list!  Apologies for the technical issues, such is the nature of live streaming.  It only gets harder when I’m on location.  The LeBrain Facebook page lost its feed close to the end, but if you missed anything it’s all on Youtube below.

Also thanks to Holen, Erik, Frank, Meat, Chris, Candace and everyone else for your great comments!

VIDEO: Windy Weekend

You don’t have to feel obligated to watch this video.  These videos are more for me than anyone else.  This time I wanted to keep intact the camera audio from the weekend.  The sights and sounds (and smells, natch) of the countryside are preserved here.  Instead of mixing my still and moving pictures as I usually do, all the stills can be found in the latter part of this video accompanied by the track “Masked” by Dr. Kathryn Ladano.

I saw a lot of birds this weekend (including geese and a family of wild turkeys) and managed to capture a bit on video. Nature lovers will enjoy the wildlife and greenery, the stormy skies and the churning lake. There are some seriously breathtaking pictures of the sky in this video, as well as a blooper and cameos by Sith Lords and Sausagefesters.

Wind and rain aside, it was a lovely weekend full of music, live streaming, barbecuing and the beach.

Sunday Chuckle: Schnauzer Cam

Good doggies! Music is “Contentions” by Dr. Kathryn Ladano, from Masked.

Epic All-Canadian Live Stream featuring Mr. Books and Agent Dekes

History was made Friday night!

For the first time ever, Deke and I have shared the screen with Mr. Books himself, Aaron from the KMA.  The subject this week:  Top 11 Canadian albums of all time.  An absolutely epic discussion unfolded with so many different genres being touched upon.  As remarkable as the lists were (five in total), it’s also quite astounding when we talked about all the albums we left out!

Lists submitted by:

  • Deke
  • Mr. Books
  • LeBrain
  • Darr
  • Dr. Kathryn Ladano

With Deke coming in from Lake Superior, Aaron from Georgian Bay, and myself on the shore of Lake Huron, we had three massive bodies of water covered.  What should we call ourselves?  The Great Lakes Consortium?

For a look at the shape of streams to come, check out the end of the video.  We brought in Uncle Meat, Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound, and Kevin/Buried On Mars.  While six at a time is a lot, it sure was fun to see everybody together for the first time!

I can’t help but take a little bit of pride in all this.  My very first live stream was March 20, the week lockdown began. Eager to make connections with others in isolation, I hit that “live” button on my Facebook app just to see what would happen. It ended up being a lot of fun and it so happened that others liked it too. A few weeks later, we figured out how to get Uncle Meat to co-host and he came up with the now infamous “Nigel Tufnel Top Ten” format.

But there were limitations, because we had to use a Facebook phone app if I wanted to have a co-host.  This reduced the scope of awesome people available to share the screen with me.  Finally Kevin directed me to Streamyard which solved numerous problems.  After months of trying to figure out how to stream to Facebook (where my audience is) without having to use Facebook, Streamyard worked.  For the first time after many months of trying, Aaron has finally co-hosted a show.  A milestone!  So yeah, I’m proud of myself and proud of the awesome friends who have co-hosted along the way.  We made something here that is catching on with people.  I owe Meat a huge debt for being the first co-host and coming up with the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten concept.

Look at the first stream below, and look where we are now.  We’ve come a long way.

Sunday Chuckle: F*** Off Light

My sister has a little recording/rehearsal building she calls Kathronia.  Yesterday she was in there practicing for a recording session.  You could tell she was working because she has a red recording light in there.

“Where’s your sister?” asked my dad.

“She’s in there rehearsing,” I answered. “You can see she has the red light on.”

“Oh yeah,” he said.  “That’s her Fuck Off light.”

Henceforce those things shall be known as Fuck Off lights!

#842: Three Times

GETTING MORE TALE #842: Three Times

Cottages were not meant to have all the niceties of city living.  No washing machines, no dishwasher, no cable TV, no telephones.  At least that’s how it used to be.  When we used to head to the cottage for a long two week vacation, we had to take our clothes to the laundromat.  If we needed to make a phone call, we had to go over to my Uncle’s place who had a phone.  If I was worried about missing some WWF wrestling, I had to set the VCR at home and hope it worked.  (It usually didn’t — programming those simple machines was very finicky.)

We only got two TV stations at the cottage so pickings were slim.  There was a station up in Lion’s Head and another in Wingham.  You had to turn the TV antenna in the general direction of those towns to get a signal.  I can recall that the two stations were exactly 90 degrees apart and almost in line with the cottage itself.  If you wanted Lion’s Head, you turned the antenna aligned with the front wall.  If you wanted Wingham, you turned it 90 degrees to match the angle of the side wall.  All done manually by twisting a pole in your hands.  Changing channels in the rain was something that happened too!  On a particularly clear day, we could pick up a signal from Michigan across the lake.  The old timers say that if the weather is just right, you could actually see the lights of Michigan from the shore of Goderich, Ontario — a trick of the refraction of light.

Between those two stations, we had very little television to choose from.  The one show that we watched every single day was The Price is Right.  I seem to remember watching Bob Barker and Barker’s Beauties after many morning swims, and just before heading back to the beach again.

One morning in ’87, we were watching a poor old guy named Fred up there on the Price is Right, and he was so uncomfortable.  “You can tell he really doesn’t want to be there,” I said to my sister Kathryn.  He ended up winning a bid and had to play a pricing game.  He looked so miserable and confused up there.  You just wanted the poor guy to lose and be out of his misery.  But that also demonstrates how dull cottage life could be for a kid — one of the most memorable highlights of that vacation was a goddamn Price is Right episode!  I can still remember Fred and his green hat!

The potential boredom of the cottage, and even the Price is Right, really sparked some creative moments.  Two things you needed at the lake at all times:  Some paper and pencils.  With those, you could keep yourself entertained through days-long rain spells and cold snaps.  The weather up there was colder and wetter than home, and you could find yourself stuck indoors with no respite.

Kathryn was always creative back then, which was shortly before she started playing music.  She invented her own games.  One of them was based on the Price is Right.

Do you recall that pricing game called “Three Strikes”?  You reached in a bag and pulled out a chip.  It could have a number, or a “strike” on it.  Pull three strikes and yer out!  Kathryn invented her own variation of that.  She called it “Three Times”.  Her version was far more challenging.  She put more chips and way more strikes in the bag.  It was unwinnable.  But memorable.  We still talk about her first prototypical game, “Three Times”.  Not a triumph, but certainly a good effort.

Another of her creations was more original and ambitious.  It was a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  She drew upon real life experiences for its storyline.  This book still exists; it is in a drawer at the lake.  It is fully illustrated and bound.

Inside, on a street that looked a lot like ours, a little kid was taking their dog for a walk.  A cute miniature Schnauzer, just like ours.  Turn the page.  You see a man approaching.  Do you:  1) Turn and walk the other direction? 2) Turn and walk towards the man.

I’m not sure what the two endings say about my sister.  In one, the man turns out to be your dad and walks with you.  In the other, the same man kills you with a knife!

This bizarre book was limited to a single copy.  Her latest work, The Improvising Musician’s Mask:  Using Musical Instruments to Build Self-Confidence and Social Skills in Collective Free Improvisation is less accessible but saw a wider distribution.  But would it exist if her Choose Your Own Adventure dog walking book did not?

We’ll never know!