A Musing on Muses

The other day a friend of mine shared a link on one of the Facebook pages I follow that was both beautiful and inspiring. It was a short video of a woman singing to call a herd of cattle. Immediately, upon watching this video, I was struck by a notion: Is this how we first domesticated animals?

We have all, or most of us at least, heard the expression “music soothes the savage beast,” but where did such a concept come from? It has been my observation that most domesticated animals enjoy the sounds of music and song, and it does seem to have a calming effect on them. In ancient times, when animal husbandry was new or just beginning, humans would have needed a way to summon and placate their herds. I don’t know how many of you have ever worked with or around herd animals before, but they can be remarkably skittish and prone to wild, panicked outbursts. But a simple song can summon and soothe instinctively, making it the perfect tool for primitive human herders.

I wonder when we forgot about the power of song? When did we decide to use dogs, and prods, and whips or to simply keep our herds and flocks locked up in barns all day long? I think we know the answer to that, too. It happened a long time ago, when we as a species discovered that animals could carry material value as well as intrinsic value. When the concept of profit entered the equation we began to care more about the price in gold owed to us by other humans, and less about the price of beauty and respect that we owed to the beasts.

I have little talent for singing, myself, but I think it would not be so bad a thing if those who are able were to return to the practice of, (if you’ll forgive the pun), ‘singing for their supper.’ We have led a good many lambs, and other creatures, to the slaughter over the last eon, and we have given them so very, very little in return for their lives. Maestro, an A, please.

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