... pieces that put you in a trance-like state...
Music doesn't only affect people
. I have this library book out at the moment, a treatise on harpsichord tuning by the 17th century Frenchman Jean Denis, instrument builder. In the midst of his technical ramblings there appear a couple of anecdotes demonstrating the power of music, specifically when it is consonant and harmonious. One story is about a white peacock, and I suddenly remembered this
White Peacock, so I thought I would come back here and relate the story.
Denis writes this allegedly true story which a lute builder friend of his had told him. A potential customer had asked to borrow a lute he had seen in his shop, and also invited him to his country mansion for the weekend, asking him to bring an expert lute player along, so that the instrument could be demonstrated to the assembled company.
So they duly arrive on Saturday afternoon and are well received, etc. On the Sunday morning, the lute player rises early and goes for a walk in the garden. He hears a mass being sung in the church and attends it. When he comes out, he finds himself without anyone to talk to because everyone else has gone to the later mass. To pass the time he gets his lute and plucks idly away at it while still strolling in the grounds. Suddenly he becomes aware of a white peacock walking along next to him, apparently enjoying the music, and following him around wherever he went, until he stopped when the others got back from church. Over lunch he told them what had happened, but they thought he had just fabricated the story.
He wanted to prove to them that it was true, so after lunch out they all went, but the peacock was nowhere to be seen. Laughingly the doubters said to the player that he should just start to play, and if what he said was true, the peacock would soon show itself. So he played, and sure enough the peacock appeared and did everything he said it would, much to everyone's astonishment.
But this is only half the story. What follows demonstrates not just the peacock's taking pleasure in the sound of the lute, but also in its consonances and harmonies, i.e. it needs not just to be played, but played well.
Later, a servant decides to have a bit of fun with the peacock, grabs the lute and plays it, and soon the peacock comes and follows him around. Alas, the servant can't really play very well at all, and soon the peacock realises that the servant's playing is worthless, unharmonious, and discordant. It attacks the servant with talons, beak, and wings, and in terror the servant drops the lute and runs away to the house to tell everyone what had happened. They all come out and see the peacock still attacking the lute, trying to smash it to pieces, unfortunately with some success.
In a footnote, the translator remarks that it would seem the moral of the story is that peacocks ought to be brought along to concerts and recitals.