(in the lands before ACME)
Chipped rock flew through humid, bubbling air. Disordered lines in cave walls connected and separated in haphazard heavy-handedness. Architects of some new place, intangible and distant to even its benefactors, hacked with primitive bashers and scratchers; patterns even they didn’t understand. This was when man still bawled its aimless evolutionary whines – a communication, but with all the lexical weight of bleats and barks. Here, as language was beginning to grind into motion, so too were the first wild lunges made in the direction of creativity.
A beat rose up in the night, rolled out on rocks and animal skin. Its basses were thick and sodden thuds, shaking dust from the walls of the players’ caves and the drying dung from their hair. Its crisp trebles perforated their weak eardrums into a ringing symphony, but still they hit their rib-bones and femurs on young drums with vigour and passion rising. They were discovering something entirely new, experimenting with perceptions and instincts; forging a future.
One of them roared. It was ferocious, bellowing into the deep valley outside and beneath, striking fear into the strange species it stirred. It was also rhythmic, appropriate somehow. Before the true meaning of music had been established, this gnarled, terrifying evolutionary throwback sung his song. Behind the deep pain he siphoned on his voice laid an indiscernible excitement, and it was disturbingly beautiful.
Those in his presence, each in someway contributing towards the infantile musical orgy, drummed harder and faster. One or two of their bone drumsticks cracked and fractured in their hands from the gathering bonhomie. Several of them began their own personal warbling – one shrill and nasal, another booming with rich timbre. This gestation of harmony, so disgusting by modern structure, served as a harrowing and entrancing opera; closer to the tone poetry of beasts than the refined tunes of humans.
Yet, between the contrapuntal Bach and the mindless Homos of ancient Earth, there could be no clear distinction, no hairpin bend at which they separated and became different axioms. Instead, a smooth and fluid maturation spun carelessly through time’s gulf. It would grasp each unconsidered onomatopoeic mutter, each wavering and pitch-less note wailed from cracked lips and bone flutes, moulding it slowly but surely from tribal ramble to Tchaikovsky; from the music concréte of cavemen to the sonic jams of Pink Floyd. In every sense of the word it was an evolution. As a slight reconstitution of a Darwinian phrase, there is grandeur in this view of art.
Music did not flow from some divine insight into the mind of early visionaries. It was not whispered into the ear of Pythagoras as he mathematically birthed the octave. It evolved, and it grew as slowly over time as the first visages of legs on the more ambitious fish. Music is a language we all share, understood by all but truly spoken by few which, unlike more fickle lexical communications, can never die. It is important to consider, however, that it did not always live; just like life itself.
So when then was ACME born? It’s a trite question in essence, but in answering it we find some interesting similarities to the evolution of our music and, in many ways, ourselves. Let us return to some indistinguishable place and time, into the cave that opened this chapter. Here, where dusty debris still brushed down the uneven walls, another fresh art form was being tempered. The same subtle, sparkling atmosphere hung in the hot air as wherever and whenever their figurative friends improvised man’s first forged beats and melodies. Yet still, it was different. It was a wholly separate aura, a singularly defined medium – the Creation of a visual expression.
It was too much to ask for a cast of characters. Each little figure, made of rocky grooves, shone through as a symbol; symbols of man, but with no clearly identifiable personality. Curved, unassuming stick men herded with jagged poles, too dull to be labelled spears. Their individual forms, while crude, evoked you to consider what it was they hid in their chiselled minds. What were their fears? Who were their loves?
While the care of Dali’s hand was absent from the violent bashes of its artist, he had still instilled it with a rich sense of his time and his people’s vague considerations and instincts. It was this release of intangible meaning and force into his work that made it transcend mere labour and approach expression. It was this tumultuous (yet quiet, unnoticed) tide that washed across the minds of a generation, and with it brought the first bricks with which to build ages of painted, hued civilisations. For us, ACME merely represented one warped and skewed province in its latest incarnation.
The artist took a quick step back to consider his job so far. He scanned over the heads of his chipped tribe, not looking for some semantic improvement to make, but instead making sure the forms were recognisable; not as coagulated blobs, but as his kin and companions. He smiled some strange, early smile and puffed a filthy cloud from his battered, black nostrils.
He recognised what he had done and, like the apocryphal Lord of Genesis, he saw that it was good. Unfortunately for all mindless creators (or more so their subjects?), he could not see its implications. He merely saw the cold conveniences in its application. Was our creator, if indeed one sole entity was the culprit, similarly disregarding and oblivious? Consider your own personal atrocities, and I beg of you to disagree with the harsh parallel of ACME’s dimension to our own.