A new article by Mat Callahan, author of “The Trouble with Music:“
“Music can remember what History forgets. Attesting to this fact is a great body of music commemorating people and events often ignored or obscured by prevailing historical accounts. This is not confined to ballads or folk songs of the past but is the subject of contemporary compositions as well.”
Music and Historical Memory
Music and memory have always been inseparable. After all, Memory is the name of the Goddess who was Mother of the Muses. The Muses, according to the poet Hesiod, “were nine like-minded daughters, whose one thought is singing, and whose hearts are free from care…who delight with song… telling of things that are, that will be and that were with voices joined in harmony.” They called on Hesiod to sing their praises but they did so with a challenge: “You rustic shepherd, shame: bellies you are, not men! We know enough to make up lies which are convincing, but we also have the skill, when we’ve a mind, to speak the truth.”[i]
That the nine muses were the daughters of Memory and not another Goddess is explained by the fact that their number corresponds to the gestation period of human beings. Memory lay with Zeus nine nights to produce nine daughters and in the marvelous mathematics of myth our story begins with the renewal of human life upon this earth. Memory serves unfolding and rebirth, not the mere storage of information.
This interpretation is supported further by the fact that Memory was the protectress of Eleuther’s Hills-Eleuther meaning freedom in Greek. What greater gift could there be than to rejuvenate our bodies while freeing our imaginations? Therefore, the Greeks of Hesiod’s time thought memory should be