Gerald O'brian

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What came first? Dancing or music?

In primeval times, what happened first, according to you. Use your imagination on this one.

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      Sep 27 2011: What a beautiful explanation. I like the thought of 'carrying the sounds of nature' with me wherever I go. I can see how this would bring movement to the sounds and keep you going when you didn't want to go any more. The music of nature brings about dance. Lovely
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      Sep 29 2011: Gosh, I want to change my answer now, this is soooo beautiful! But if you consider music all "agreeable sound" (M Webster), then the forests were making music for those nomads to dance to...
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    Sep 24 2011: If this is an Idea worth spreading I answer it's not Important what came first , If you don't use both of them in your life at the same time you'll become a dead man .
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    Oct 5 2011: As a dancer I feel that it is impossible to dance without music, and impossible NOT to dance in the presence of music (even if I'm only compelled to tap my foot). Even when choreographing a routine or martial arts display in the absence of sound, there is an assumed rhythm going on in the choreographer's mind. Whether it is a rhythm of sounds or a rhythm of motions it amounts to the same pattern. I agree with Michael on this one: they are essentially the same thing expressed in two forms. In the same way that a deaf person can communicate the same concept using visual symbols that a hearing person communicates through verbal ones, I think dance and music use two different sensory systems to express the same thing. I imagine that we developed both art forms at about the same time.
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      Oct 5 2011: Agreed. Both are forms of patterns one kinetic, the other auditory, but ultimately both are based on our ability to recognize vibrations and reproduce them.
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    Oct 2 2011: Rhythm came first as the expression of our passion. One does not exist without the other, they are each others creation. Dance is the music of my body and music is the dance of my soul.
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    Oct 1 2011: Gerald,

    Music.

    A child in the womb hears the beat of her/his mothers heart.
    Than again, the child was conceived during rhythmic "dancing."

    Hmmm. Good Q.

    Andrea
  • Sep 30 2011: Dance came first. I bet our ancestors tried to move their body wildly to try to attract the other sex' attention.
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    Sep 28 2011: Music is a message. The dancer is a messenger.
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    Sep 27 2011: It must be music. Dance without music is pointless
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    Oct 5 2011: Is dancing not music, and vice-versa?
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    Oct 3 2011: The first music is the rhythm of a mother's heart beat and the sounds of her body and of the outside world echo through the uterine wall to make a sort of jazz combo but then again, I sometimes felt that my babies were tap dancing on my bladder so who knows!
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      Oct 3 2011: "sometimes felt that my babies were tap dancing on my bladder"heheh, nice one!!!
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      Oct 5 2011: this is a good point!
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    Oct 2 2011: Music is sound wave.....sound always existed in the universe in for form of a "hummmmm....." , spiritually known as 'AUM'.....this sound is, spiritually, existence of God and its neither created nor can be destroyed.....it always existed. Every entity is created from this vibration.....or, Sound...........or, Music.........or AUM...........Everything else came later........ Remember, music is one of the form of meditation because it exists inside you and resonates with music giving you peace.
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    Oct 1 2011: I can easily imagine music came first either as a mother making rhythmic sounds to calm her baby, or as part of the mating riitual to get and maintain the others attention. But movement with the sound would probable followed rapidly.
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    Sep 30 2011: If i rock my baby in my arms, am i dancing with her? or just emulating the motion inside the womb, to comfort her.

    If i hum and rock her in my arms, am i singing and dancing?
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    Sep 26 2011: Chicken came first or the Egg ? I guess Chicken and Rooster , because to create life you need a male and a female , chicken alone can't reproduce and neither does the Egg.

    Now about Dance or music came together in a single moment, maybe a coincidence , and moving to a beat.
    Even when monkeys move they make some noises , however who knows for sure?

    I think Walter has an interesting point , first rituals were for hunt and to teach the techniques to youngsters , so should have been silence, when you think about it , it is really cool, reminds you of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
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    Sep 26 2011: I think that the prehistoric hunt may have occurred without music so as not to scare away the game. The movements of stalking and chasing game were the first dances.
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    Sep 24 2011: From the mith , the dance cames first as a celebration of the life dancing around the cosmos. The circles traced in almost all the aboriginal dances are archetypical and foundational. The music apper as a technology that relates materials, sounds and rithms. The very first musical instrument known is the human body, then appears some stones, wood and seeds. The music is a late form of expression. The dance is first.
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      Sep 25 2011: Interesting. What about the theory according to which singing came before speech?
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        Sep 28 2011: Isnt singing as we know....is just the use, th primigenial use of vocal chords. But first we had to learn the symbol...or better the simbolic status of our mind that we construct for ourselves with the primigenial sounds....the heart beat from our mother heart. our first rithm. Then the dance begun in the womb.
  • Sep 24 2011: This is going to sound weird to some. Have ya all ever danced to a bonfire or just an outdoor fire, without music? You are just sitting there, watching the red, yellow and blue sparks go up into the air. PURE quiet and nature. You can actually stomp your feet and move your hips to the beat! You can move slow or fast! I know it sounds weird, but it's true! Try it sometime! So,, answer to the question, music! Then we danced!! Good question!!! ( i am serious about dancing to a fire!) :)
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    Oct 13 2011: OK, Gerald, while we continue mediating on this, please tell us about your avatar.

    What is that in the picture?
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      Oct 13 2011: This is a mole rat. It's always refreshing to find another naked mammal out there. There's always something uglier than you, if you care to look around.
      I love the fact that it has a big belly and tiny arms attached to it, like the fat guy in NYPD Blues.

      Also, you kinda wanna dress it up, don't you, it looks like it needs jeans and a striped shirt. Maybe a baseball hat.
      See what I mean, Karina.
      Anyway... enough about me.
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        Oct 15 2011: Thanks, now we know you a little better...

        Your thinking process is a good deterrent for those, young and old mole rats alike, that go through so much diet and plastic surgery to try to look like photoshopped models or actors.

        I like it; instead of the "there is always someone prettier than me", people can now protect their self esteem repeating your mantra, "there is always someone uglier than me"
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          Oct 15 2011: You know, I jus might photoshop that babe to see how good a mole rat could look, albeit by artificial means. I'll give it a shot tomorrow if it rains.
          Feel free to contribute, if it rains wherever you are.
  • Oct 7 2011: Dancing, with rare exception, is dependent on music. Music came first.
  • Oct 6 2011: This question supposes we can define when music and dance started. At what point do "sounds in nature" qualify as music? You can take Cage's broad view, or look for something more narrowly classified as an art form. Since it seems likely that early language activities were a combination of vocal and gestural communication it's hard for me to imagine music & dance originating separately.
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    Oct 6 2011: of course music as usual ;)
  • Oct 6 2011: I can guarantee that music came first. Music is embedded in nature and it's not difficult to understand that sound must come second.
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    Oct 6 2011: Logically, music first.

    Imaginatively, TV first.

    Dance didn't really take off until Michael Jackson influenced/ruined music videos forever with his en masse synchronised dancing videos..
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    Oct 5 2011: ...

    [perhaps the dance of nature and the music of the wind were both born and raised far before human kind was available to enjoy and sometimes even enhance the choreography] [?]
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      Oct 6 2011: [Awww]
      Gosh, what a beautiful way to put it. It is a painting with words... :-)
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    Oct 5 2011: Just to oppose the general opinions here, I would say dancing!
    (though I really don't know)

    Why?
    - when you are happy, you move around in a dance-like way.
    - the elegance of a woman walking is sometimes a dance... so she dances without even knowing. Only afterwards, men started to make sounds to contribute to her movements...
    - seeing the dances of nature inspired us to make sounds evoking what we were seeing.
    - all movement can be seen as a dance (as some here say any sound can be heard as music). movement came before hearing...

    Dancing and music can be seen as pre-human... creatures dance and sing.
    The most primitive live forms can only dance.
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    Oct 5 2011: Luigi gave me an article to read on another TED question and I found this in the final paragraph and thought you all might enjoy it. (translated from Spanish).

    Time, ie, rhythm, pace of work especially, but also the rhythm of the tides as the seasons, mythical nature which is conceived and represented as threatening the pace of work. In the deaf work rhythms of the natural history continues, in the shape of wild, untamed nature, the obligation to sacrifice, whereas in the ritual dance and song, that articulate the relationship of sacrifice, is promised a little release, a bit of abolition of sacrifice.
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    Oct 3 2011: Neither. They came at the same time. For both music and dance you have timing. Being able to keep time is a fundamental of both music and dance. Without that you can't have either in the form that we know it. Most likely in primeval times it was music.
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      Oct 3 2011: Still some of the noise that is sold in CD form in stores today is called music... no timing, no rhythm, just sound (often loud and annoying). Go tell them, please! :-D
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    Oct 3 2011: Music came before dancing. Egg before chicken ;-) Light before bulb, Love before omelette....
  • Oct 1 2011: The heartbeat came first. This motivated movement (dance) and then music. When walking we feel a pulse- when the pulse is divided or multiplied it results in rhythm. Speech has both rhythm and pitch. Music is the organisation of sounds, whether percussive or pitched. It is all related.
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    Oct 1 2011: The music.....BTW, it never came......it always existed.........!!!!!!!
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    Sep 30 2011: If i tap my foot, am i dancing or am i sounding out a beat?

    If i tap both feet, is that dancing?.... or just sounding out a rhythm.

    Get up and stamp my feet?... Dancing?
  • Sep 30 2011: A lot of people say dance is impossible without music. But what about martial arts? Can't it be considered like a dance?
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      Sep 30 2011: It should be. I'm sure it triggers the same neuronal response, with or without music background, in terms of pleasure.
  • Sep 29 2011: Human ritual is deeply embedded in the human mind, and the though of movement as ritual as part of the hunt, as practiced could be see as dance? Why not?...Musical instruments were not necessitated until long after rituals like practicing the hunt and communion with nature.
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    Sep 29 2011: I think "In primeval times, music happened first. music is a prerequite of dancing. "It's impossible to imagine dancing without music. Dancing is different from 'moving'.
  • Sep 29 2011: I think music and dance are two sides of the same coin. The movements we use to play an instrument are a kind of dance. A deaf person can find beauty in the sight of an orchestra playing. Conversely, dancing generates music. A blind person can find beauty in the sounds of a tap dancer. Like the chicken and the egg, neither came first. One can't exist without the other.
  • Sep 28 2011: I wud say RHYTHM came first...you cant dance or play music without Rhythm...and rhythm or sequential pattern of sounds must have inspired both music and dance.
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    Sep 28 2011: Music, or sound.
    But they are inseparable now...
  • Sep 28 2011: Concerned with individual activities, either could have appeared first. But I believe dancing prevailed or was officially recognized first. Because in primeval rituals it is OK if you don't have music and just chant simple words rhythmically, but you can not leave out dancing.
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    Sep 28 2011: music can be made anywhere anytime (vocals, hand percussion, thumping) it would make most since to have music first, and dancing with out music should be called moving
  • Sep 27 2011: I think it is the dance. My theory, is that the first musical instruments were drum like. there is a rhythym to life ( dance ) that man has needed a method of conveying to others (music)
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    Sep 27 2011: This question is somehow similar to a question I heard in long back. What came first to universe ? The egg or chicken.
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      Sep 27 2011: Alright, Rafi. Then what did, the chicken or the egg?
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        Sep 29 2011: It is a long story.
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        Sep 29 2011: The egg because the chicken has a genetic mutation from it's original species. So therefore the other species laid the egg, but the egg wasn't normal, it's mutated into a chicken. Then the egg hatches and the chicken reproduces.
        • Sep 30 2011: You can not say once there was a chicken whose parents are not chicken. The slowness of evolution blurred the distinction of species. So, in this sense, the chicken or the egg doesn't mean much.
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          Oct 5 2011: have to second this... there were eggs before there were chickens.
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        Sep 29 2011: @Gerald.

        I wish I could tell that here, but TED.com is not the platform to tell long stories.
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          Sep 29 2011: Well you get 2000 characters per comment, and you're not limited in number of comments, so please yourself and let's hear the story of the chicken and the egg.
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    Sep 26 2011: Natural instincts came first. Then came the knowledge that one can move around (gracefully). Then came dance and the need to move to a melody. :)
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    Sep 25 2011: When you are asking for music, does it mean music created by humankind ? If so than it's dance first as lot of natural music already were there........

    If it's natural than (not created by human) music first which made human to dance.
  • Sep 24 2011: Seeing a natural event, what caused it, then trying to replicate it in some way.
  • Sep 24 2011: As a wildlife artist I know that birds dance (males to attract females) without music. As do many other types of animals.
    So, your question doesn't state anything about humans just in "primeval times", which to me is before humans as we know them.
    My ans. is Dance.
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      Sep 25 2011: Prehumans can teach us a lot about humans, can't they, though?
      • Sep 25 2011: Sadly no, not in the way you mean! What they have passed down to us is only their bones & very few of those.
        The term primeval generally means before warm blooded animals but not always. Check out Bio. 101.
        Gerald you must understand that just about everyone has a theory about something, that can fit into your way of thinking. I am not trying to be crude here, but theories are like butts & everyone has one.
        Boy! Did I clean up that comment.
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          Sep 25 2011: Are you saying that our close ancestors, let's say those we had a million years ago, have only passed down bones to us?
          This is a unique theory, I grant you that, since i've never heard that before.

          And your "every one has one" idea is just fantastically primeval. I thought people agreed on the theories that led to more knowledge.
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    Sep 24 2011: May be they came at the same time. I can imagine a group of people around a fire in the evening and some one starts pounding out a rhythm on a log or rock and a little kid gets up and starts moving around like little children do to the rhythm of the music, then another person starts to hum or make sounds to the rhythm pretty soon you have people dancing and singing and finding joy in doing these things. Then maybe it was shared with others and developed in different ways all over the world reaching the peak of folk singing and dancing and then group celebration singing and dancing, then dancing and singing for others and it has spiraled out ever since then.
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    Sep 24 2011: I think Music came first.. It is difficult to dance without music! :p
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      Sep 28 2011: Mihir better than "think" is research.
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        Sep 29 2011: yes.. you are right.. but I am really not interested in research on this!
        So that was just my wild conclusion. :)
  • Sep 24 2011: music then was the dance.
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    Sep 24 2011: I feel that dance came first. I find it far more likely that physical communication, came before verbal communication. Reenacting an event could easily turn into a dance in order to pass the story on from one generation to another. Also, animals (like bees) dance. The movement of trees is often called a dance, and the only musical part of nature that I can think of is the song of a bird. The earliest cave drawings that I'm aware of depict hunting and other physical activities requiring movement. The movement of an activity, can easily be translated into the movement of a dance.
  • Sep 23 2011: Probably music, emulating nature.