Roy E Howard, Ph.D.
Music, Creation… a Musical Creator
Assuming there is only one accurate explanation for the origin of the universe and the earth on which we live with an infinite variety of forms that we classify in our sciences of geography, biology, astrology, etc.; then the commonalities in the creation stories of the various cultures are likely to lead us to categories that are true. For example, traditional cultures recognize a universal flood and science discovers fossilized ocean life everywhere, including the highest mountains. The role of sound in creation is universally recognized as well. Christian as well as most other traditions speak of the creative power of the voice or of instruments, not only by the creators, but by all creation.
The Holy Bible and other Christian Scripture
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:1-5) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light; and so forth. Each of the creative periods began with “and God said…” (Genesis 1).
Modern revelation confirms the role of “the word” in creation. “But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word (Moses 3:6,7). The role of the word or voice in creation applies to the planning of creation when the morning stars sang together (Job 38:7; D&C 128:23). Lehi confirmed that the singing continued among those waiting to come to earth. “And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (1 Nephi 1:8). King Benjamin looked forward to joining the choir after his earth life (Mosiah 2:28). The New Testament mentions that angels sang at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:13–14), and that Jesus and the Twelve sang a hymn after the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30). Latter-day revelation also confirms the spiritual value of good music. The Lord has said, “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12). He also specified that a selection of sacred hymns be made for use in the Church (D&C 25:11). See also Rev. 14:2–3; Mosiah 2:28; D&C 45:71; 66:11; 101:18; 109:39; 133:33; 136:28.
John saw the role of “the voice” and musicians, and instruments, and singers in earth and in heaven. “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders… (Revelation 14:2,3). In all the chapters of Revelation, John tells us of the sounds he heard in the visions. including singing, shouting, and instruments… music by angels, men, beasts, and every living creature.
•I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet (Revelation 1:10).
•He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 2:29).
•Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20).
•…the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me… (Revelation 4:1) And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices (Revelation 4:5). John sees men and beasts singing.
•I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice (Revelation 5:2); and he sees angels and beasts singing, as well as every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them.
•Beasts cry with loud voices (Revelation 6)
•A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb… and cried with a loud voice… (Revelation 7)
•I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets… The sound of each trumpet caused some powerful effect over the earth (Revelation 8,9)
•John heard an angel who cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices . Each voice and each thunder initiated some worldwide effect (Revelation 10)
•John saw that power was given to men who with the witness of their voices have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will; and that the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. (Revelation 11)
•John saw the war in heaven continued in the earth with loud voices (Revelation 12,13)
•And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders. The loud voices of Angels initiate different events in the last days (Revelations 14).
•And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb… (Revelation 15)
•The war continues on the earth with voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great, and the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters… (Revelation 16, 17, 18).
•The war ends and all creation rejoices. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Revelation 19, 20, 21, 22)
Sound, Voices, Music in Traditional Versions of Creation
The primordial myth of Creation, common to all people, tells of a mighty melody, the very breath of the primordial god, that sang Creation into existence. To the Celts it was known as the Oran Mór, "The Great Melody", a melody that did not cease with the initial creation, but goes on and on and on, inspiring Creation along its holy pilgrimage of giving and receiving blessing.
Sounds from Natural Objects
In some myths, gods created by producing sounds from natural objects.
For example, in one story among the Aborigines of Australia, a god created the earth by beating the sea with a reed. The sound called forth other gods, who created humans and the rest of the world. (Schneider, 47)
The Marind, a Papuan people of New Guinea, say that a god lit a piece of bamboo to warm the first part-human, part-fish creature. At the first sound of the crackling of the fire, the creature's ears opened; at the second, the eyes; at the third, the nostrils; and so on till the first man came to life. Significantly, the creature's (man's) first organ was his ears. (Schneider, 47)
According to the Witoto of Colombia, the father god created the primeval waters by beating a hollowed-out tree drum. (Schneider, 47)
Sounds from Gods
Sometimes gods created by uttering their own sounds.
Among the Maori, a Polynesian people of New Zealand, the Supreme Being is the god Io. In the beginning were only darkness and water, where Io lived inactive. By uttering words, he created light and then the sky and the earth. (Leeming, 183)
The Netsilik (Seal People) of Greenland also believe in original darkness and in the creative power of words. In Netsilik mythology, the hare created light by speaking the word day. (Leeming, 209)
The Kato of northern California say that powerful sounds from the god Thunder created the world from chaos. (Leeming, 156)
Songs from Gods
In many versions of sonic creation myths, gods created by singing.
According to the Hopi people of the southwestern United States, in the beginning were Tawa (the sun god) and Spider Woman (the earth goddess). Tawa and the Spider Woman had a Sacred Thought-creation-which they sang into reality, thus creating the world and living things. (Leeming, 124)
The Pawnee people of the American Midwest say that the wind, the thunder, the lightning, and the clouds sang, shook rattles, and danced as Tirawa-that is, space itself-created the earth. (Leeming, 223)
In the mythology of the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles Basin, the Tongva people, also known as the Gabrielenos, a formless, genderless creation force called Quaoar sang into existence the other deities-Sky Father, Earth Mother, and Grandfather Sun. (McFarling, A17)
Natives of the Marshall Islands tell the story of Lowa, the uncreated, who was alone in water in ancient times. When he hummed, the islands emerged. When he hummed again, plants and animals arrived. (Leeming, 185)
Traditional Roles for Music in Life
In ancient Greece the lyre was said to have been invented by the god Hermes, who handed it on to his brother Apollo as part of a bargain. From then on Apollo played the lyre at the banquets of the gods, while the Muses sang to his accompaniment. Orpheus goes to the underworld to try to have his dead wife, Eurydice, restored to life. By means of his lyre playing and singing he is able to win over even the god of death, so that Eurydice is allowed to leave the underworld.
An ancient Chinese myth tells of the discovery of the "foundation tone," which, in addition to being a musical note of specific pitch, also had political implications, since each dynasty was thought to have its own "proper pitch." Tones are an indispensable part of Chinese literature, as characters in poetry and prose were chosen according to tones and rhymes for their euphony. This use of language helps in reconstructing the pronunciation of Old Chinese and Middle Chinese, since the Chinese writing system is logographic. The foundation tone was produced when Ling Lun, the founder of Chinese music and a scholar, went to the western mountain area of China and cut a bamboo pipe in such a way that it produced the correct sound. He is said to have traveled to a distant land and made a set of 12 flutes with bamboo. This set of flutes could produce 12 tones and became the basis of music.
Said Tezcatlipoca, god of heaven and of the four quarters of the heavens to the wind: "we must bestow music upon all creation. to the awakening dawn, to the dreaming man, to the waiting mother, to the passing water and the flying bird, life should be all music! " How Music Was Made" according to the Nahua people of México. http://www.cantos.org/Booksfolder/volxi.html