2010-12-16 / Musings


“In the jungle , the might y jungle, the lion sleeps tonight....” 

— Solomon Linda, “Mbube ”

"And it seemed t o me all the more important to get out of this forest with all possible speed as I would very soon be powerless to get out of anything whatsoever, were it but a bower... But before I go on, a word about the f orest murmurs. It was in vain I list ened, I c ould hear nothing of the kind. Bu t rather, with much goodwill and a lit tle imagination, at long intervals a distant gong. A horn goes  well with the forest, you expect it... But a gong! ...For a moment I dar ed hope it w as only my heart, still beating.”

 — Samuel Beckett, “Molloy”


The oldest anthropomorphic figure, thought to be created 32,000 years ago, was found in Germany’s Swabian Alps. It is a lion-person, lion head and human body, carved of ivory. Archeologists have debated whether the figure was meant to be male or female. Or perhaps deity.

There is no such identity confusion with the Venus fertility figures. They were also found at this German site 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. These figures are clearly human female. Only female, really, with their huge breasts and voluptuous vulva: emerging for only fertility, carved out of mammoth tusks. In 2008, the oldest undisputed musical instrument was discovered at the same site. This flute, carved of a vulture’s wing bone with five finger holes, was created during the same time as the Venus and Lion-Man figures. It seems that the oldest human societies were making love and music, vibrating each other and the surrounding air, making air with voice and instrument. And percussing: shaking, rubbing, hitting, scraping to set into vibration. Paleolithic red dots painted onto cave walls marked the spots of best acoustics. It remains only to connect the dots.

Thus have I seen, connected in my imagination, wandering the lion’s den of the forest, Lowenmensch and Venuses. In their bacchanalian dancing there arises the illusion of the immortality of the dancers. But ultimately there comes the lion’s share of threnody for all and each. The lion’s roar reduces to silence the cacophony of the orgy.

The lion’s roar is inscrutable, yet unmistakably decisive and absolutely compelling. What seemed beyond question in the forest begins to unravel.

A symptomatic echo of the unsettling is seen in Samuel Beckett’s “Molloy,” written in the 1940s. This narrative is the interior monologue of what seems to be two discrete characters, the vagrant Molloy and his pursuer, the private detective Jacques Moran. Yet soon their common bicycles and murders and monologues cease to distinguish themselves from each other or to clarify the qualities of the forest.

Moran can only write: “’It is midnight. Rain is beating against the window.’ It was not midnight. It was not raining.”

Thus have I heard, in “Molloy” to be sure, that when someone in a forest thinks he is going in a straight line he is going in a circle. So one might strategize: If one thinks to go in a circle, perhaps then one is going in a straight line. Well, maybe not a straight line, but maybe, perhaps, not a circle.

A circular metal plate struck in the center is a gong. Gong pitch can be defined or undefined, but the vibrations always come from the center of this percussion instrument. The percussion instruments were, after the voice, the earliest kind of musical instrument. However, not all instruments vibrate in the center. The bell, for instance, vibrates at the rim.

Another type of percussion instrument is the lion’s roar. This instrument consists of a drumhead that has a string passing through its center. Moving one’s fingers along the string, from drumhead to string end, creates a sound virtually indistinguishable from a lion’s roar. It is of interest that it is not the string that vibrates; the sound is created by the vibration of the drumhead through which the string passes.

Listen: Did you expect clarity in the lion’s den? Simplicity in the lion’s roar? Unity in the imaginary narrative? Getting to the heart murmur, the beat of the matter?

Perhaps tonight, after the roar, the lion will sleep. Perhaps the vibrations of gongs and drums and narratives and indiscrete mind will settle. Under hearing, underhanded understanding: Not even minimally mentally supplying that not expressed. Such is the case. 

— Rx is the FloridaW eekly muse who hopes to inspire profound mutiny in all those who care to read. Our Rx may be wearing a pirate cloak of in visibility, but emanating fr om within this shado w is hope that readers will feel free to respond. Who kno ws: You may e ven inspir e the muse. Make contact if you dare.

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