Musica Universalis; T. Rex and Trad

“Beats the hell out of Tyrannosaurus Rex, doesn’t it?”

That was the comment my first traditional Irish music teacher made to me after seeing the beaming smile on my face after having learned Marbhna Luimni (Lament for Limerick).

He wasn’t wrong; but he was not completely right, either, and his comment sent my head spinning. I hadn’t thought about T. Rex in years, but I did then and there.

When I was around five years of age, I watched a repeat of “Top of the Pops” , featuring T. Rex performing “Get it On” (Bang a Gong).

It blew me away.

The combination of that music, and all of those beautiful women dancing both on and off stage, left me transfixed. I couldn’t swear properly at that age, but I distinctly remember a thought popping into my head; “Jesus H. Christ jumped up on a big red pony.”

(It was something my grandfather used to say a lot. I still don’t know what it means, what the “H.” stands for, or why Jesus would need a big red pony, but hey, I was five, and it was all I had.)

I’m no mathematician (if I have to count past ten I have to take my shoes off), but I do come up with the odd equation of sorts, and did so while watching T. Rex on TV.

Guitar=pretty girls= “I must have a guitar.”

Yes, I had a problem even then. The best “problem” a man can ever have.

I was not interested in Irish traditional music at all as a boy; in fact, I was embarrassed by it. I associated trad with drunken grown men fighting back tears and bitching about Brits. Not that I haven’t done that.

So I took to playing rock music; almost all of it of English origin; The Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and Black Sabbath. But most of all, Led Zeppelin. Which not so ironically, led me back to trad.

Songs like “Gallows Pole” and “Battle of Evermore”, while not exactly traditional Irish music, turned my mind in a different direction, and as I grew, I began to learn not only the guitar, but the tin whistle and the bodhrán.

And I also learned a little about Pythagoras.

All I knew about Pythagoras in my teen years was that he was a bad-ass mathematician. Then I discovered that he was also, amongst other things, a philosopher, and promoted a school of thought which had very much to do with the power of music and sound.

Apparently, he believed music could heal people, both physically and mentally. He also believed that all celestial bodies (the sun, moon, planets, and stars) emitted vibrations which directly affected life on this pretty planet we live on; but that these vibrations were inaudible to the human ear.

Which does not mean that we can’t feel them. Obviously, we can.

Which is why you get the same feeling when you wake at the break of dawn in Connemara to the sound of someone singing sean-nós as you do when you hear a muezzin making the Adhan (call to prayer) in a Muslim country. Or why blues and country music may have similar effects on your emotions. Or even T. Rex and trad,

The best trad session I ever attended was in a pub in Bunbeg. It was an informal session, with local musicians coming and going as they pleased; at one point, there were twelve men and women playing around the table, and I was as transfixed then as I was as a five year old watching “Top of the Pops”. More so, actually. And what was more, I had at least half of a brain in my head at the time, and even in the sonic perfume of all of that beautiful music, I was able to form a coherent thought.

Evil can never triumph in this world. There is too much love, too much music. Good vibrations.

Musica Universalis; the “Music of the Spheres.”.

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