Raven and the Transmission of Knowledge

Knowledge is transmitted through relationships. In journals, we can only see the "texts". But these texts are created by authors. When we read the texts, we are developing relationships with these authors. In Voices, there are several different genres. We've provided a choice in genres because we want to explore the diverse ways to create these relationships with texts because knowledge has a different tone and color and sound and effect based on the genre in which it is expressed.

For this issue, we decided to invite our contributors to explore two of the genres that have not been used very much in our publication - stories and interviews. I'm very pleased to introduce you to a new star in our constellation of Voices editors. Lesley Bunt is now our "Interview Editor". And you will experience the art and craft of his interview process in this issue. His first contribution is an interview with Mary Priestley. We have an interview from Oceania too.

Stories offer a particular way to relate to readers. Several contributions in this Voices issue remind us of the unique attributes of "story" as text. Stories also often form the foundations of cultures. Many of the ancient stories and myths, particularly the origin myths include music and song as central elements in the process of creation. Here is an example, a very old story from my own Haida Nation.

Raven and the Ancestral Human Beings

Everyone knows that a long time ago, the world was covered by a gigantic flood. It covered up islands, shores and even many of the mountains. Eventually, the flood receded. Raven was flying around, happy that the floodwaters were gone. He was bored with a waterlogged world. So he was out there, flying around, flying around. Finally hungry Raven landed on a beach and began looking for good things to eat.

Raven hopped and flapped along the seashore. From a distance, as Raven hopped along the beach, he spied a gigantic clamshell. Always interested in anything new or different, Raven waddled over to the shell. He heard strange sounds coming from that clamshell-little squeaks and funny noises: "Yakity, yak-yak." He had never heard such sounds coming from a clamshell before. He cocked his head and fixed his shiny black eye on the shell.

Raven was curious to find out what was inside the clam shell, but he knew that he would have to soothe its fears, whatever it was.

Raven has a beautiful voice: He can croon and sound like a beautiful bell. He can sing and make pleasant and reassuring sounds, comforting sounds, sounds that bring joy to any heart. So Raven decided to sing to the clamshell. He sang a song that sounded like gurgling and happy water. After his song, he called out to the shell, "Come out, whatever you are, whoever you are. Come out. I am Raven, Creator of the World, and I will not hurt you. Please come out and play with me. The flood is over; I have given light to the world. Please come out and we will play together."

Again Raven sang. Raven is not only the Maker of Things, not only the Transformer; he is also a Magician and a Healer. His singing contains magic and his voice, while sometimes annoying when he is hungry or frightening when he is angry, can also be lulling and soothing. Finally, the clamshell opened, and a little being with long black hair, a round head, and brown, smooth skin popped out. Raven looked at his creature, with two legs like himself (but no feathers) and two arms and two hands: a very puny and scrawny being. Raven heard the murmur of other voices in the shell. Because he didn't want to scare the little thing, he continued singing, and he called the others out. Slowly, these little creatures emerged from the clamshell and onto the beach of what is today called British Columbia. These beings were the ancestral Haida.

"Come and play in my beautiful world, a world with warm, rich sunshine and sounding seas and dark nights for telling stories and sleeping. Come and play with me, and we will eat salmon and berries and all types of good things," Raven sang to the First People.

At first, the People were frightened and bewildered. They were frightened of the sea-noise, the crashing of waves against rocks, and the pounding of the surf. They were frightened by the sound and movement of the wind. They were frightened by the darkness and size of Raven; they were afraid Raven might eat them. But slowly, one by one, they emerged and played with Raven and ate the delicacies he brought to share with them. (Kenny, 1994)

The humans were afraid to come into existence. Raven teased the humans into existence by his beautiful singing. This is an ancient myth. So Raven probably had not studied Music Therapy at one of the major universities around the world. But as music therapists, these stories help to situate us historically, mythologically, and playfully in the context of arts expression and its importance in human development. The simplicity and clarity of a simple story can tease us into exploring the deeper implications. What was the teller's point? What was he/she attempting to convey? How can the story serve as metaphor for other applications? A story might seem simple. But usually, it is complex. It's just that it makes you work for your understanding. . . and play, of course.


Kenny, Carolyn (1994). Our legacy: Work and play. Keynote presentation. Proceedings of the Annual conference of the American Association for Music Therapy, "Connections: Integrating our Work and play", June, 1994.