[Dixielandjazz] The Roots of Jazz?

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 8 07:06:17 PDT 2008

Caveat: Slightly off topic but a fun read for musical historians.


In Stone Age Caves, Art and Music Mixed

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

July 1, 2008 -- At least 12,000 years ago, the most popular musical  
events might have taken place in torch-lit caves next to walls covered  
in art, according to new archaeological research in France.

Stone Age-era caves there bear paintings located in the most  
acoustically resonant places, where sound lingers or echoes.

The first cathedrals, theaters and concert halls, researchers now  
theorize, may have been inspired by musical performances held in caves.

Iegor Reznikoff of the University of Paris told Discovery News that he  
stumbled upon the Stone Age art and music connection.

"I am a specialist of the resonance of buildings and spaces,  
particularly of the resonance of Romanesque churches," Reznikoff  
explained. "The first time I happened to be in a prehistoric cave, I  
tried the resonance in various parts of the cave, and quickly the  
question arose: Is there a relation between resonance and locations of  
the paintings?"

To test his question, Reznikoff sang and hummed within various parts  
of well-known French caves containing prehistoric art. These included  
Niaux and Le Portel in Ariege, as well as Arcy-sur-Cure in Burgandy.

He drew three key conclusions from the "sound checks." First, most  
pictures were located in, or very near to, resonant locations. Second,  
the density of the pictures in these areas is proportional to the  
intensity of that spot's resonance. Finally, resonant areas where  
painting would be difficult, such as narrow passageways, appear to  
have been marked with red lines.

The latter finding suggests cave dwellers first scoped out caves for  
their musicality before any painting commenced.

Reznikoff will present his findings this week in Paris at Acoustics08,  
a meeting jointly organized by the Acoustical Society of America, the  
European Acoustics Association and the Societe Francaise d'Acoustique.

His findings could help explain why bone flutes have been found near  
some caves containing the Stone Age art.

"The [prehistoric] tribes could make sounds with stones, pieces of  
wood, different types of drums and so on," Reznikoff said.

"Of course the Paleolithic tribes did sing, as do all cultural groups  
from other regions," he said. "That they did so in the caves is shown  
by my studies. The ritual purpose appears very convincing."

David Lubman of the Acoustical Society of America, and one of the  
world's leading acoustical experts, told Discovery News that when he  
first heard about Reznikoff's theories, he could "imagine picturesque  
scenes of cave persons dancing, singing and chanting to some kind of  
rhythmic music while the torch lights flickered to show the cave  

Lubman said he hopes future studies will support Reznikoff's theories  
with scientific measurements.

It's possible that all of today's music could have resulted from an  
ingrained human memory of the acoustical properties of caves, added  

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list