African Musical Symbolism In Contemporary Perspective: by John Collins

By John Collins

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On a double-headed high/low bell the first note is accentuated by striking the lower pitched of the bells. The kagan stick drum. This high pitched drum is played with two sticks that beat a repeated basic three note phrase; the right hand strikes the drum openly twice and then the left stick is played with the right stick held down on the drum-head, which mutes the left strike and raises its tone somewhat. The result is a continuous sequence of two low notes (“L”) followed by a high one (“H”), which 36 almost exactly follow the twelve metronomic time-intervals.

17 He was trained in music by Egyptian priests according to Kendrick’s History of Ancient Egypt, Volume 1, p. 234. 14 39 were in use. These were based on a widespread ancient mathematico-musical system of ascending intervals of a fifth. When he returned to Greece Pythagoras joined the snake-cult associated with the Delphic Oracle; probably itself imported from North Africa and the Aegean. Indeed, the very name Pythagoras comes from the sacred Python buried in a cave at Delphi – as does the word Pythia, the priestesses who officiated at the Oracle.

Furthermore, and as in the case of individual rhythms, the collective inside rhythm also has a sounded and relatively silent aspect, as it swells and diminishes in intensity. Sometimes African musicians employ devices that exaggerate the inference effect in order to create vibrations that are aesthetically pleasing to them, or believe these put them and their instruments into special touch with the spiritual world. One is the mbira hand-piano of Shona diviners, which is given an extra vibrational buzzing quality by small pieces of metal being loosely attached to it that are believed to create the actual voice of the ancestors or Soul of the Mbira30.

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