- Where there's life, there's bound to be music.
That's not to say that one causes the other.
But there's a reason that silent forests are a spooky portend of doom.
In many mythologies, music is associated with the explosion of life and bursts of creativity.
But it's also used to explore the dark side of human nature.
The desire to manipulate our surroundings, or to control others.
Every time we play a musical instrument, be it a cosmic conch shell, an emotionally intelligent harp, or a heartbreaking lyre, we are creating something beautiful and mysterious.
But we're also manifesting our will.
This tension is evident in the stories we tell about music, the instruments that make it, and the people that perfect it.
(mysterious music) In some cultures, the sound of music is associated with the blooming of life itself.
Hindu cosmology depicts one of the principle deities Vishnu, holding a shankha, or conch shell.
During the churning of the cosmic ocean, Vishnu blew the conch shell to sound the first noise of creation.
An "Omm" that continues to reverberate throughout the universe.
With its concentric spirals and deep echoing sound, the shankha is a material manifestation of eternal cosmic energy.
Other creation myths reveal the importance of music to humans from the beginning.
Sumerian myth offers us the tale of Ninmah, the primeval mother goddess who shaped the first humans from fresh underground water.
Her son, Enki, crowned the second ever human to grace the earth, a master of the musical arts and a chieftain, indicating both the sacred nature of music and its centrality to human nature.
Exploring the links between life, music and creativity is a common mythical theme.
In Norse mythology, Bragi, son of Odin, was given a magical harp and sent on his way to Asgard from his mother's home in the land of giants.
With his harp and the magical runes carved on his tongue, Bragi's music had the power to bring plants to life, control animals, and ward off harmful spells.
In these stories, music doesn't just play in the background.
Instead, it actively has the power to awaken the world.
From epic, cosmic ripples, to the most delicate flower.
If music has these epic powers, it's no surprise that mythical characters have used it to exert their will on the world.
The leader of the Tuatha de Danann from Irish mythology was Dagda, a figure of plenty.
His cauldron was always bubbling with stew.
His pig was always growing.
And his magical club had the power to either wound, or heal.
But perhaps his most powerful instrument was his Four-Angled harp, also known as the Uaithne.
Also called the Coir Ceathat Chuir, or "four-angled music", the harp could put the seasons in the correct order and control human emotions, no big deal.
The uaithne was coveted for its powers by the Fairy King Bres.
But when when he got his thieving hands on it, the harp fell silent, for no one but the Dagda could make it sing.
When Dagda uttered a charm from afar, the harp came to life and rushed toward its master, killing nine of the King's men on route.
Another tale of music's ability to control comes to us in the legend of the owl husband, from the Passamaquoddyy people in the Northeastern US.
The story tells of a young woman who refused to marry.
Her father decreed that whoever made the embers of a fading fire blaze with new flames could marry his daughter.
Of course, no one could reverse the fires, except for the wily horned owl, who disguised himself as a handsome hunter, and used his magical powers to reignite the fire.
It was only after their first night together that the woman perceived his yellow eyes and pointed ears.
Horrified, she fled.
The owl tried to trick her again, coming to her in a different disguise.
But she was able to perceive his true nature and she eluded him for a second time.
Furious, he consulted his sorcerer owl aunt who fashioned a magic flute with the power to send anyone who heard its tones into a love trance.
At the sound of sweet music coming from the forest, the young woman was enchanted.
By the time she found herself deep in the forest, searching for her love, the horned owl swooped down and snatched her up in his talons.
So music and mythology is usually beautiful.
But it often holds the power to manipulate.
In the harp that toys with human emotions, or the flute that entrances unsuspecting mortals, music is seen as a mysterious and overwhelming force that's not to be taken lightly.
This complex power is further explored in myths that examine music as a portal to the supernatural world.
In Finnish mythology, the demigod Väinämöinen plucked fishbones from the base of a waterfall to fashion a magical harp.
Only he could control its joy-bringing powers, until the sea God Otto stole it for himself.
Stung, Väinämöinen wove a second harp from Birchwood and a maiden's golden locks.
He took his new harp with him deep into the underworld on a hunt for the Sampo, a magical device that could bring good fortune.
With the help of the harp, Väinämöinen found the Sampo, and lulled the inhabitants of the underworld to sleep, only for them to awaken and overtake him at the last minute.
Eventually, the Sampo was lost forever.
Like Väinämöinen, the Greek hero Orpheus could only wield his music against supernatural forces, to a point.
Orpheus was known as the most masterful musician who perfected the lyre and sang stunning love poems.
When his beloved wife, Eurydice, died by Viper attack, Orpheus ventured into the underworld to beg for her return.
With his haunting lyre, he played sweet and mournful music to tame the three-headed guardian of the underworld, Cerberus, and softened the hearts of God's Hades and Persephone.
The gods of the underworld agreed to let Eurydice follow Orpheus back to the land of the living, on the condition that Orpheus did not look back to check that she was following him.
Just as they neared the surface, Orpheus was overcome with anxious curiosity.
He turned around, only to see Eurydice falling back into the clutches of hell.
He was so distraught that he spent the rest of his life alone, singing about broken hearts.
Until a volatile group of women known as the maenads, ripped him to shreds for his lack of cheer.
Orpheus's severed head carried on singing in death.
And so his music continued to resound.
Here, music is the key to the underworld.
But it also transcends tragic circumstances and retains its mysterious power beyond the grave.
Orpheus's singing head is not the only ancient instrument with supernatural associations.
In Chinese mythology, Lin Lun was believed to be the creator of music, who invented the ancient bamboo flute and tuned it to mimic the sound of the phoenix.
To the Nahuas people who lived in what is now Mexico, the death whistle signaled, (whistling) you guessed it, that someone was going to die.
It was constructed from stone and carved with symbols of death, like skulls and owls.
While its exact uses are not known, scholars have suggested that their players use them to echo the howling wind of the spirit world in funerial or sacrificial rituals.
In these examples, musical instruments mediate the relationship between human, natural, and spiritual worlds.
Making these instruments from natural materials and training the body to play them, are acts that are grounded in the physical world.
But when played, these instruments evoke something intangible and mystifying.
Across mythology, stories about music often come down to the question of what we can and can't control.
In tales of music, nudging nature into bloom, exploiting human emotion or communicating with divine entities.
We see characters trying to direct the world's most enigmatic forces.
But we also glimpse the power of music to change our perception and transport us to other realms.
Whether it's being used for good or evil, music always retains a kernel of mystery.
One that often compels us to surrender our reason and hopefully enjoy the vibes.