We generally think of the wheel as being the invention of some industrious caveman. The assumption makes sense; it’s a geometrically simple shape, it doesn’t require modern materials…or maybe we’re so used to seeing cavemen and wheels as comedic pairings in comics, we just assume the wheel is as old as the arrowhead.
But that assumption is way off. The arrowhead, by most estimates, is at least 150 000 years older than the wheel.
The wheel dates back only about 3500 years. By that point, we had already been building boats, digging canals, weaving fabric, and casting metals for some time. We’ve even been playing the flute and the harp longer than we’ve been using wheels.
The reason for the wheel’s relatively recent invention is partly explained by terrain. After all, a wheel isn’t especially useful without paved roads (at least, not useful for transportation purposes) and that didn’t happen on a large scale until the ancient Greeks.
But the real unsung hero is the axle, which came a full 300 years after the wheel, and which allowed for things like carts and chariots and wheeled farming equipment. The axle is what made the wheel (apologies in advance)…revolutionary.
This song, by British songwriter Sohn, has less to do with the wheel’s origin story and more to do with its shape, as he explained to Dummymag upon its release:
It’s a track about the end of something, the beginning of something, and the over-thinking of that time in between – I feel like the track is like a big sigh, in some ways. Like exhaling after finding out that something you’ve been dreading doing actually is nothing at all.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The way his voice balances precariously between his chest voice and his falsetto.
2. The way the percussion clicks and ticks like a tap dancer.
3. The way it oscillates between the first and sixth degree of the scale, an unusual pop interval, gives it a circular, unfinished feel.
Recommended listening activity:
Eating a bagel counter-clockwise.
Buy it here.
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