Reptile Brain (2001)

for 'cello, viola, piano, percussion, violin, trumpet
By Douglas Boyce
American

On the bottom of our brain lays (and lies) the seat of impulses that have been with us since dinosaurs ruled the earth; when to breathe, when to eat, when to die. But we’ve all been taught the tale of the demise of those thunder lizards (except those that learned the art of growing small and growing wings)- the snakes and the dragons ate each other, clearing the way for the clever mice; didn’t they?

At least one of those dragons (the one coiled at the center of our skulls) never closed its eyes. This hidden brain was there first; oldest, and most primitive, in the simplistic popular language of evolution, but primary and inescapable, and filled with a visceral and immediate logic of action. Strip away the filter of milk and warm blood, and it is there, wrapped round the apple-core of human nature, hiding from us the important things, whispering confusing lies with sibilant s’s.

The reptile brain is difficult and risky to ignore: the racket of its murmurs and belches echoes through the back plumbing of the mind, deranging the careful compositions of mice and rabbits and monkeys and us. And yet these eruptions of dino-logic can open tunnel paths of sound that warm-blooded brains, youthful brains (full of the fine wiring of counterpoint and structure) lost along the way towards fur and opposable thumbs. This a piece of laughter and of forgetting to remember.

—S. Martin

Other works by Douglas Boyce:
“Music is the best means we have of digesting time. ”
--W. H. Auden