23.06.21

Words by: Billy Ward

The 10 Best Examples of Music’s Evolution, according to Throwing Snow

"Parallels can be drawn with diss tracks today, I guess..."

Known for his abstract and refreshing takes on everything from shadowy dubstep to more pop-leaning sounds, Ross Tones, aka Throwing Snow has been prolific in his own right for over a decade. The London-based DJ and producer has never shied away from using his music as a vessel for exploring interesting and thought-provoking topics, with his 2019 ‘The Death of Pragmatism’ EP tackling political tension and fragmentation in the UK. Despite having explored so much sonic territory over the course of various years, albums and side projects, the Houndstooth mainstay’s drive to give his work fresh and unique angles is fiercer than ever.

His forthcoming album ‘Dragons’ is a conceptual project of primal rhythmic productions, which occupies the space between science and ancestral wisdom. Using a mixture of ancient ritual instruments and modern drum kits, Tones links music back to its prehistoric capacity of transmitting knowledge to show how the modern world can benefit from new technology. “I’m fascinated with the origins of music because it ties together many of my areas of interest. The ubiquity of music in all cultures and areas of the world suggests a multi-layered benefit to humans throughout our evolution. It permeates nearly all aspects of life. In ‘Dragons’, I reference the use of tools throughout history and music can definitely be seen as a tool,” he says.

Given his fascination around how music has been utilised differently through the ages, Tones talks us through his favourite examples of music’s evolution and also where to find out about them.

1. Diacoustics YouTube Channel
“This channel is a treasure trove of information on the evolution of music. This playlist is an excellent place to start as any because it is really well thought out and reasoned. There are many other videos on the channel well worth checking out too.”
2. Steven Mithen’s The Singing Neanderthals
“Steven Mithen is a Professor of Archaeology at Reading, and I’m a big fan of his work in general. His book, ‘The Singing Neanderthal’, looks at the origins of music, language, mind and body and how they are all interrelated; I’ve found it a big inspiration.”
3. Music as a Memory Device
“Lynne Kelly’s work on the Aboriginal Australian songlines and how information is retained and passed down through generations without a writing system opened my mind to the possibility that one massive benefit of music is to encode knowledge. Song, place, knowledge and ritual together form a coherent way of preserving useful information. This must have been practised all over the world in the past, including the UK, which I find fascinating to think about.”
4. Phillip Ball
“I enjoy Phillip Ball’s books like ‘Critical Mass’ and ‘Elegant Solutions’. In ‘The Music Instinct’, he takes on Steven Pinker’s assertion that music is merely ‘auditory cheese cake’. That Pinker quote really annoyed me but inspired me to find out more about the subject.”
5. Sounds of Prehistory
“Reconstructing instruments can give an insight into the sounds from the past. Finding the scale or mode of the instrument allows you to imagine the music played on these ancient instruments. I love the sound of the bone instruments in this clip.”
6. Rock Gongs/Lithophones
“Our ancestors’ relationship with natural materials like rock and bone was so much more intimate than our own. They formed the very fabric of stone age life from knapping flint to knowing which stone to use to heat water so that it doesn’t explode when fire heated. These were the percussive sounds of life. Chime-like sounds appear from flint knapping, and that sound is directly related to the material and would have been used to assess how good it was for making tools. Rocks that resonate must have been significant, and there is evidence that they have been used as musical instruments.”
7. Bards in Celtic Traditions
“I love the fact the bards we valued as high as kings in ‘Celtic’ societies. They could praise and talk up the lord that paid them but also rip into their master’s enemies, destroying them with comedic depictions. According to Irish sources, some of the victims never recovered their humiliations because reputation was so important in society. Parallels can be drawn with diss tracks today, I guess.”
8. John Kenny
“As part of the Snow Ghost’s album, A Quiet Ritual, we worked with John Kelly, who played an Iron Age Carnyx. It’s an amazingly powerful instrument and because it has a boar’s head it seems to come alive. My dog, Indy, definitely thought so as he barked at the head when it was played, 12ft in the air. Imagine the sound of hundreds of them appearing over the horizon in a battle; it would be terrifying.”
9. The Hurrian Hymn
“The Hurrian Hymn is the oldest reconstructable piece of music from history. It was written down on a clay tablet around 1400BCE. It’s basically like a guitar tab but without knowing what the strings are tuned to, so it’s open to interpretation.”
10. Frame Drums
“Frame drums are found from Africa to Siberia and everywhere in between. I’m not convinced about the frame drum appearing with Neolithic farming, but it’s interesting to consider, especially the Irish Bodhrán/winnowing sieve tradition. My theory is that frame drums could well have come hand in hand with drying animal pelts on a frame for clothing in hunter gatherer bands, as tensioning the skin correctly is important.”

Throwing Snow’s new album ‘Dragons’ is set to release on June 25th. Stream his latest single below:

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