The Forgotten Crime

Memories of Home CD

The Sumerians

So What?

Some Music Mysteries

Other Stations

CD Liner Notes

The music on this album is based on scale tunings that are different than the Western music familiar to most of us. The tunings used in Memories of Home were derived from notations found on Old Babylonian clay tablets that now reside in the British Museum. It is believed they are of Sumerian origin, which means they are at least 5,000 years old. They came from the Mesopotamian region of the Middle East - the Tigres and Euphrates River Valley in what is now modern Iraq, Kuwait, and Iran, although culturally and musically they are not related to the peoples that now inhabit this region. I believe these tunings are much older than 5,000 years and came from a previous culture of which there is no longer a historical record.

There are seven different tunings. Each is subtly different than our modern equal temperament tuning. That is, most of the notes would fall "between the cracks" of the keys on a modern piano. Music sounds very harmonious in these tunings, as they don't contain the subtle disharmonies built into equal temperament.

I ran across these tunings in 1996. After playing some initial melodies, I discovered that a remarkable effect is produced on those listening to (and playing) the music. It seems to create an opening, often quite emotional, and can evoke a remembrance, different for each person, of where we came from before we were born onto this planet. Thus the title of the album.

Most modern instruments - those that are fretted or keyed such as guitars, woodwinds and brass instruments - cannot play these tunings. A piano must be completely re-tuned for each of the seven tunings. To avoid these impossibilities, I have used a Kurzweil synthesizer to duplicate the sounds of these and other instruments in the Mesopotamian tunings.

Another word for tuning is mode, which derives from the same root that the word mood does. So a tuning can be thought of as conveying a certain mood or feeling, and this is what happens with the Mesopotamian tunings, and is what contrasts them with Equal Temperament, and most of Western music.

One major exception is Northern Indian raga music, which will illustrate this difference. Indian ragas are based on selecting (usually) seven tones from a total of 22 within one octave. One tone, usually the lowest, is played constantly and is called the drone. The other tones are played around the drone, giving the music its mood and rhythm. But what is most important is how a particular tuning is chosen. There are said to be over 5600 different Indian raga tunings. For a particular concert, one tuning is chosen in the following way: Consideration is given to the purpose of the concert: perhaps it is a religious celebration for a certain Indian saint. Also taken into consideration are the time of year, time of day, the weather conditions, and the mood the musicians wish to convey to the audience. These and other factors determine the tuning.

Next, and most important for us, the concert begins with the tuning up, which can last for 45 minutes or more. Its purpose is to attune the players and the audience to the "mood" of the concert. In the West we might say a certain quality of resonance - both physically and in more subtle ways - is set up in the environment of the concert, so that when the actual performance begins, the music can be fully appreciated from the beginning. Part of this "appreciation" manifests in a subtle, or even dramatic, alteration in consciousness of all in attendance. Not only does this get the musicians "in the groove" so to speak, it allows the audience to better follow where the music leads them. Unlike a guitar, the Indian sitar has moveable frets. The frets are moved to produce the exact tones desired; the frets are then fixed in position for the duration of the concert.

Here in the West, the most famous performance of Indian music was Ravi Shankar's opening music for the Concert for Bangla Desh in 1971 in Madison Square Garden. Before beginning, he asked the audience to sit quietly, not to smoke, and to be respectful of the sacred music they were about to play. The reason for this is now easy to see: sacred means being able to change conscious awareness in deeply profound ways that we are generally unaware of in the West. Certain music - such as Memories of Home - can create an inner holodeck for us, where we can experience other realities, other levels of awareness. India, with over three thousand years of musical development, has this skill down pat. For the rest of us, since most of the music we listen to only has the intent to entertain, we remain in the dark about the hidden possibilities all music once possessed.

The music on this album can re-evoke deep responses in us in a modern context. The particular harmonies in these tunings relax the body, the mind, and indeed the whole self, in such a way that the Inner Self can be heard, or at least sensed. These sensations are variously visual, auditory, even kinesthetic. The music does not create these effects directly; rather it creates an opening in which they can be naturally experienced. Within this opening, profound relaxation, healing, and altered states of awareness can occur. This is the significant difference from music played in Equal Temperament where such openings rarely occur.

To get the maximum benefit from this music, either sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed. Some people fall asleep - that's fine. Specific experiences may be evoked that relate to some past or present event in your life, or that illuminate some choice you're making for the future. You may experience something similar to an inner movie or a series of scenes that will help you understand and release a past experience so you may get on with your life. Some people have established contact with one of their inner guides or guardians. When the music ends, remain in the silence until you feel ready to open your eyes.


Fred Cameron

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