Music as a Chariot: The Evolutionary Origins of Theatre in Time, Sound, and Music, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Music as a Chariot

The Evolutionary Origins of Theatre in Time, Sound, and Music, 1st Edition

By Richard K. Thomas


338 pages | 101 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9781138295773
pub: 2018-02-20
SAVE ~$9.39
Hardback: 9781138295469
pub: 2018-02-12
SAVE ~$31.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315145631
pub: 2018-02-02
from $23.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


Music as a Chariot offers a multidisciplinary perspective whose primary proposition is that theatre is a type of music. Understanding how music enables the theatre experience helps to shape our entire approach to the performing arts.

Beginning with a discussion on the origin and nature of time, the author takes us on an evolutionary journey to discover how music, language and mimesis co-evolved, eventually coming together to produce the complex way we experience theatre.

The book integrates the evolutionary neuroscience of the human brain into this journey, offering practical implications and applications for the auditory expression of this concept—namely the fundamental techniques artists use to create sound scores for theatre.

With contributions from directors, playwrights, actors and designers, Music as a Chariot explores the use of music to carry ideas into the human soul—a concept that extends beyond the theatrical to include film, video gaming, dance, or anywhere art is manipulated in time.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction: Why this Book?

Introduction: An Ear Opening Experience

Old School Aesthetics

When Sound Gets Divorced from Music

Who Should Read this Book

Overview of the Book


Ten Questions

Things to Share


Part I: The Nature of Time

Chapter 2: Let There Be a Big Bang

Introduction: If a Tree Falls in the Universe…

The Nature of Light and Sound

The Evolution of Hearing and Speaking

The Evolution of the Brain Leads to the Ability to Express Emotions

Eyes and Ears, Space and Time

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Chapter 3: The Great Mystery of Time

Introduction: Babbling in Babelsberg

The Mammalian Invasion

We Are Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made of…

The Relativity of Time

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Part II: Music = Time Manipulated

Chapter 4: What Is Music?

Introduction: What’s in a Name?

Music Is Organized Sound

Narrowing Our Definition of Music

Music Is Visual as Well as Audible

The Elements of Design

Energy Characteristics

Temporal Characteristics

Spatial Characteristics

Complex Elements that Combine Energy in Time and Space

The Importance of These Elements of Music

A Proposed Definition of Music

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Chapter 5: Primate Numbers

Introduction: Who’s on First?

Music, Language and Mimesis: The Really Early Years

Bipedal Primates

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Part III: Song = Music + Idea

Chapter 6: Campfire Songs (Rhythm and Entrainment)

Introduction: Welcome Homo

One Giant Leap for Mankind

Early Homo

Homo Erectus

Running, Tempo, Pulse, Tactus and Entrainment

Tempo, Pacing, Tactus, Entrainment and Theatre Composition

When Music Meets Mimesis


Ten Questions

Things to Share



Chapter 7: Music and Language

Introduction: "All Theatre Starts with a Script"

Brain Gains

Fantastic Voyage

Conclusion: Song = Music + Idea

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Chapter 8: Consonance and Dissonance (The Evolution of Line)

Introduction: The Roots of Who We Become

The Evolution of Line

Consonance and Dissonance

What is Consonance and Dissonance?

Subcortical Consonance and Dissonance Perception

Cortical Consonance and Dissonance Perception

Consonance and Dissonance in Theatre



Conclusion: Consonance and Dissonance and Time

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Part IV: Theatre = Song + Mimesis

Chapter 9: Ritual, Arousal, Reward, Ecstasy

Introduction: From High Mass to Ecstasy

The Development of Ritual, Shamanism, and (Altered States of Consciousness)

The Neuroscience of Arousal and Reward in the Altered States of Consciousness of Shamanism and Theatre

Introduction: Dreams, Altered States of Consciousness and Theatre

The Basic Neuroscience of Arousal

The Effect of Music on Physiological Systems

The Effect of Music on Psychological Systems

Cognitive Models for Music in Theatre

Robert Thayer’s Model of Psychological Moods

Berlyne’s Theory of Arousal in Aesthetics and Psychobiology

Conclusion: Experiments in Ecstasy

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Chapter 10: Music, Mimesis, Memory

Introduction: Traveling Backwards in Time

The New Stone Age



Sensory Memory

Long Auditory Store/Short Term Memory/Working Memory

Long-Term Memory

Creating and Retrieving Long-Term Memories

Implicit Memory

Explicit Episodic Memory

Involuntary Explicit Episodic Memory

Autobiographical Memory

Conclusion: The Origins of Theatre and the Problems of the Oral Tradition

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Chapter 11: The Bronze Age and the Invention of Writing

Introduction: Theatre Becomes Drama

The Bronze Age

The Emergence of Written Language

The Transition from Oral Tradition to Recorded History

Conclusion: Lost in Translation?

Ten Questions

Things to Share



Chapter 12: Conclusion: Evolution and Greek Theatre

Introduction: A Case Study

The Origins of Greek Music: Music = Time Manipulated

The Development of Greek Song: Song = Music + Idea

Music as Math Made Audible: The Greeks Revisit Consonance and Dissonance

The First Autocratic Theatre: Theatre = Song + Mimesis

Plato and His World

Aristotle’s Theatre

Conclusion of the Conclusion

Eleven Questions, Part I

Eleven Questions, Part II

Things to Share



About the Author


Richard K. Thomas is Professor of Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue University with over 100 credits as a composer, sound designer, author, playmaker and educator. He is a Fellow of USITT, and winner of the 2018 Distinguished Achievement Award in Sound Design and Technology.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General