Tuesday, July 3, 2007

46. A Phylogeographical Study, A Cantometric Table, and A Yellow Bell

Continuing -- or attempting to -- on all three fronts. First, phylogeography -- or, more specifically, "Phylogeography of the human mitochondrial L1c haplogroup: Genetic signatures of the prehistory of Central Africa," by Chiara Batini et al., as published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47, 2007. What does this have to do with the meaning of P/B hocket in the context of subsaharan African music? Good question!

Batini et al made a detailed study of a related set of mitochondrial DNA markers, "haplogroup" L1c, found only in Africa (and Afro-America), with the highest frequencies by far in Central Africa:
. . . the unique feature of the L1c is that it retains a signature of a phase common to the ancestors of the Bantu and Western Pygmies, while encompassing some specific sub-clades which can indicate their divergence. This allowed us to attempt a phylogenetically based assessment of the evolutionary relationships between the two groups. Taking into consideration estimates of the time to the most recent common ancestor of L1c and its clades together with archaeological and paleoclimatological evidence, we propose that the ancestors of Bantu and Western Pygmies separated between 60 and 30 kya.
Kya stands for "thousands of years ago," so what they're saying is that anywhere prior to 60 thousand, and at the very least 30 thousand years ago, according to their research, both genetic and archaeological, the ancestors of the Bantu and the Western Pygmies were members of the same group. If that is indeed the case, then in all likelihood they would, at that time, all have shared the same culture, including the same musical traditions. The Pygmy groups they studied were the Mbenzele (aka BaBenzele), Biaka (aka Aka), Bakola, Baka and Babinga (aka Binga). Three of these groups, the Aka, Baka and Binga are included in the Cantometric sample (see map). While the BaBenzele are not yet represented in the Cantometric sample, their music is readily available on CD and presents a very clear picture. All four groups vocalize almost indistinguishably, using hocket, interlock and yodel, while additionally, both the Aka and BaBenzele are known to have hocketed wind ensemble traditions, in the form of tuned "mo-beke" and "hindewhu" pipes, respectively.

There is more to consider:

The quasi-ubiquitous presence of these three L1c clades in the Western Pygmy populations indicates that these groups retain strong signs of their common evolutionary history, despite their small demographic dimensions and the geographical distance separating the Babinga of Congo from the Pygmies from Cameroon and the CAR. On the other hand, it should be noted that no sequence belonging to the L1c clades shared by the Western Pygmy populations studied here, and no other L1c haplotype was detected among the Eastern Pygmies of the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo . . . These results reconfirm a substantial mitochondrial genetic diversity between Western and Eastern Pygmies, as expected from a separation between the two Pygmy groups predating the Bantu expansion . . . [p. 641]

In other words, the Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Forest cannot be included in the same ancestral population as the Western Pygmies and Bantu. The genetic relationship between the "Western" and "Eastern" Pygmies has been a puzzle for some time, with different researchers coming up with somewhat different results. My guess is that the confusion is due to sampling problems that will be resolved when more complete studies can be done. For our purposes, however, the most important thing to understand is that the Mbuti also vocalize in essentially the same manner as the Western groups, including the use of yodel, despite the truly vast distance between the Eastern and Western groups, not to mention "the geographical distance separating the Babinga of Congo from the Pygmies from Cameroon and the CAR" (see above). When we add the Bushmen to the mix, it should be patently clear that the musical traditions of the ancestors of all these groups, including the Bantu, must have been built around essentially the same style so characteristic of Pygmy and Bushmen music today. What the genetic and musical evidence together tell us, therefore, is that Bantu music as we know it today must be regarded as an offshoot of what I've been calling Pygmy/Bushmen style.

So much for that issue, at least for the moment. Now I want to pick up where I left off with our migrating "Out of Africa" band, circa 90,000 to 60,000 years ago, singing and playing in essentially the same style I've been discussing above. How do I know this? Well, let's put it this way. I can't prove it -- yet -- but there is a substantial body of evidence, in the form of a great many musical practices, to be found along the most likely pathway(s) of this founding lineage, that involve, once again, essentially the same musical style, what could be called the "African signature" as it manifests itself over and over again in the hocketing/interlocking and, yes, very often yodeling, of so many indigenous groups still practicing the same traditions in various parts of the world, well into the 20th Century.

This is ground I covered fairly thoroughly in my "Echoes" essay, where I provided a great many specific examples, both vocal and instrumental. What concerned me then, and what I was then hoping to test, was the relationship between the musical connections I was finding and any possible historical connections, confirmable via archaeological, linguistic or genetic research. Now, with the Cantomeric database available to me once again, I've been able to begin the testing process and can share one of my most intriguing results:

All Groups in Greater Melanesia Where Interlocked Vocalizing Has Been Found in the Cantometric Database

Compiled April 2007, by Victor Grauer

Area_Name-- Culture_Name--LanguageFamily--Location--Total Songs in each sample with interlock

MELANESIA AJIE Austronesian New Caledonia 4
MELANESIA 'ARE 'ARE Austronesian Solomons Malaita 9
MELANESIA BAEGA Austronesian Solomons Malaita 1
MELANESIA BUKA Austronesian Buka Island, north of Bougainville 1
MELANESIA GUADALCANAL Austronesian Solomon Islands 2
MELANESIA kanak Austronesian New Caledonia 2
MELANESIA NASIOI Papuan Bougainville 2
MELANESIA TORAU Austronesian Bougainville 1
MELANESIA VELLA LAVELLA Papuan Vella Lavella Island, Solomons 1
NEW GUINEA BALIEM Papuan Highlands 1
NEW GUINEA BIAMI Papuan Southern Highlands 2
NEW GUINEA Bisorio Papuan Highlands 1
NEW GUINEA DANI Papuan Highlands 5
NEW GUINEA EIPO Papuan Highlands 10
NEW GUINEA HAMTAI Papuan Highlands 1
NEW GUINEA HULI Papuan Southern Highlands 2
NEW GUINEA KOVAI Papuan Morobe Province, Northern Coast 1
NEW GUINEA MONI Papuan Highlands 1
NEW GUINEA OK Papuan Highlands 3
NEW GUINEA YALI Papuan Highlands 4

The above is the direct result of an MS Access query of the Cantometric database. I can't format these neatly into columns here, but the first thing you see is the area name, referring either to island Melanesia or New Guinea; next is the culture, or tribal, name; next the name of the language family, either Austronesian or Papuan; then the location, which in New Guinea is either highland or coastal; and finally the number of songs in each sample that were coded as interlocked. You can ponder this table for now. I'll be discussing it in my next post.

OK, now for my final routine of the day, I'll provide a fresh clue to the puzzler I gave you yesterday: what was the earliest music notation, and what did the notes look like? My clue will take the form of a fable, regarding an ancient Chinese myth, the myth of the "Yellow Bell":

In olden times Huang-ti ('Yellow Emperor') ordered Ling Lun
to establish the lu. Ling Lun travelled from the western to the shady northern side of Mount Yuan Yii. He selected bamboo grown in the Chieh Ch'i valley. He chose only a piece which was hollow and of even thickness. He cut off its knots and used the hollow section between the two joints, the length of which was 3.9 ts'un (inches). And he blew the pipe and produced the sound kung (the basic tone) of huang-chung. He then brought twelve other pipes of different lengths down from the mountain and he listened to the sounds of the male and female Phoenix birds. He grouped their sounds into the twelve lu. There were six sounds of the male bird, and another six of the female. He related them to the kung of the huangchung and found that the huang-chung was the foundation of the lu-lu. [as quoted in "Myth and Reality in the Theory of Chinese Tonal System," by János Kárpáti -- Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, T. 22, Fasc. 1/4. (1980), pp. 5-14.
Does that help? Are you more puzzled then before? Stay tuned.


Brodie said...

Hi Victor,

Based on this post, my guess to your puzzler is that the first notations were either lines of varying lengths or depictions of various species of birds associated with each note. I guess that's two guesses. Looking forward to finding out your answer.

Your arguments in the last few posts, to me, are pretty convincing, and certainly support further investigation. I've also loved getting a glimpse into some of the data from the Cantometrics database. I had a good laugh when you said that it was only accessible with a Mac Quadra previously.

Thanks for the fascinating read, I'm glad to have a chance to get back into your blog after a bit of a break. I'm also curious to know, what's the current status of the Global Jukebox? Has any progress been made in the last few years?

DocG said...

Hi Brodie. Good to see your back. Your guesses are wrong. Read on.

The Global Jukebox turned out to be a far more ambitious project than Lomax had anticipated and so he was never able to complete it. All the materials are, to my knowledge, now stored at the Library of Congress.

There was some publicity not too long ago about an archive titled "The Global Jukebox" which was supposed to become available via the Assoc. for Cultural Equity website (http://www.culturalequity.org/), now run by Alan's daughter, Anna. As I understand it, this was only to be an archive of recordings and possibly some photos and film clips. But it was a promising start and I was hoping there could be some effort to revive Alan's original plan in its entirety. But that doesn't seem to be in the works. It would be a huge endeavor.

Checking the Assoc. website today I don't see any reference to it, so I'm not sure what it's status is. But you can find many of Alan's recordings and clips from recordings there. It's certainly a valuable resource.

DocG said...

I found the new Global Jukebox link, which is here: http://www.culturalequity.org/features/Publications/ce_features_publications.php

As you can see it's described as a "music imprint," which I suppose means that Lomax's recordings and maybe other materials will be distributed under that label. It's certainly worth looking into, but it's not the original Global Jukebox, which was a far more ambitious project.