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Observations placeholder

Blacking, Professor John – How musical is man? – Music can create a world of virtual time



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Blacking, Professor John – How musical is man? – Music can create a world of virtual time

From what I have said about shared experiences in Venda music, it should be clear that tshikona is valuable and beautiful to the Venda, not only because of the quantity of people and tones involved, but because of the quality of the relationships that must be established between people and tones whenever it is performed. Tshikona music can be produced only when twenty or more men blow differently tuned pipes with a precision that depends on holding one's own part as well as blending with others, and at least four women play different drums in polyrhythmic harmony. Furthermore, tshikona is not complete unless the men also perform in unison the different steps which the dance master directs from time to time.

The effectiveness of tshikona is not a case of MORE = BETTER: it is an example of the production of the maximum of available human energy in a situation that generates the highest degree of individuality in the largest possible community of individuals. Tshikona provides an experience of the best of all possible worlds, and the Venda are fully aware of its value.

Tshikona, they say, is lwa-ha-masia-khali-i-tshi-ohila, "the time when people rush to the scene of the dance and leave their pots to boil over."

Tshikona "makes sick people feel better, and old men throw away their sticks and dance."

Tshikona "brings peace to the countryside."

Of all shared experiences in Venda society, a performance of tshikona is said to be the most highly valued: the dance is connected with ancestor worship and state occasions, incorporates the living and the dead, and is the most universal of Venda music.

It is because music can create a world of virtual time that Gustav Mahler said that it may lead to "the 'other world'- the world in which things are no longer subject to time and space."

The Balinese speak of "the other mind" as a state of being that can be reached through dancing and music. They refer to states in which people become keenly aware of the true nature of their being, of the "other self" within themselves and other human beings, and of their relationship with the world around them.

Old age, death, grief , thirst, hunger, and other afflictions of this world are seen as transitory events.

There is freedom from the restrictions of actual time and complete absorption in the "Timeless Now of the Divine Spirit," the loss of self in being.

The source of the experience

Blacking, Professor John

Concepts, symbols and science items


Higher spirit


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Frenetic exercise


Know yourself
Listening to music