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While you live, shine. 
Have no mourning at all. 
Life exists a short while
And time demands its fee. 

– From a 2000 year old tombstone in (then) Greek-speaking Asia Minor

I’d like to do a little free-association exercise with you. I’m going to say three words and I’d like you to speak or write down all the words that come to mind as a result. No filtering. No judgment. Ready?

American Pop Culture. Go! 

 . . . Ok. Here’s what I got: Kanye Trump Gun Meme YouTube

That’s pretty sad, I suppose. And maybe it anecdotally, non-scientifically supports a claim made by my guest today that culture and music, once mutually dependent, have become totally unmoored and lost in the age of globalism. And that the sounds we make and market today just don’t have anything like the healing power that was music’s purpose for thousands of years. 

Christopher C. King is a writer, Grammy—winning music producer, and something of an ethnomusicologist. His obsessive collecting of rare ‘78s led him to discover the music of Epirus, a region of northwestern Greece. To his ears, the playing of Kitsos Harisiadis, Alexis Zoumbas, and other Epirote masters virtually unknown outside of Epirus had an elemental power transcending even that of Delta Blues legends like Robert Johnson and Skip James. In Epirus, King  found something he thought had been lost in the world: a musical culture with unbroken roots stretching back into prehistory. And some clues, perhaps, as to why we make music in the first place.  

Christopher’s new book is Lament From Epirus: An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest surviving Folk Music

Lament From Epirus from Drew Christie on Vimeo.

Chris King Quote: You typically will pay for a dance and you’ll dance as the lead dancer. And the whole time the clarinetist will be watching you like a hawk. Like a snake ready to descend on its prey. He’s trying to figure out what you need. What the tone is that you need to hear. And he will get closer to you and closer to you until the bell almost touches your ear. And then suddenly what was being heard by everybody is only heard by you. You’re the recipient of that tone. And . . . you just pass over. You just feel inundated by tone. And the next thing you know, you’re opening your eyes and somebody’s cradling your arm and you feel . . . whole.

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

David Kennedy on the biggest problem historians face

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.


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