Thursday, June 25, 2009


The journal Nature published a story on June 24, 2009 regarding a discovery made in September 2008 of what is believed to be the earliest handmade musical instrument. The tiny flute was carved from a mammoth tusk some 35,000 years ago, and was discovered in the same cave in Germany where the same team found a tiny ivory carving of a naked woman. Say what you will about our primitive ancestors, but they used the media available to them for the same basic purposes most of us use the Web. Read more about -- and listen to -- the flute here.

[Still from Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom courtesy of The Ward-O-Matic]

Through the magic of media synergy, PBS aired the program The Music Instinct the same night that Nature published its report. And through the magic of channel surfing, The Typing Monkey managed to see Instinct, and enjoyed it immensely. They put Jarvis Cocker in an MRI and mapped his brain while he sang, talked to a man who accompanies songbirds with his clarinet, and discussed research both sound and dubious regarding the human urge to play and listen to music. Check your local listings, as the show is worth catching.

Thinking about the origins of music and its ability to stir our emotions so deeply and effectively, reminded The Typing Monkey of a Disney cartoon short called Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom. Directed by the great Ward Kimball and Charles A. Nichols, the 1953 short not only won an Oscar, but is also the first cartoon to be filmed in CinemaScope. Toot is as reductive as a 10-minute cartoon aimed at teaching kids the basics of music history needs to be. But the Jim Flora-inspired artwork and sweet music make it entertaining.


[Courtesy of thelostdisney]