A meme is a word invented by Richard Dawkins in 1976. He had written "The Selfish Gene" describing the way in which genes evolved on earth by collecting into complexes that we call organisms. These organisms (e.g. us) are machines that arose because they improved the frequency and spread of the genes inside them. At the end of the book, he introduces the concept of the meme - thought, act or thing that is able to spread and gain influence through the cooperation of a host. As he worked on genes, he had realised that the speed of evolution of human culture was making physical evolution irrelevant for our species. We were changing ourselves and the planet millions of time faster than any process of physical evolution. The atoms of this cultural change, he called memes. Analogous to genes, their purposeless propagation alters culture. They can split, mutate, become extinct etc etc.
The term meme is helpful because it strips back cultural pretensions and brings together analysis of all thoughts, actions and things, no matter how different. It encourages evaluation of the influence of the Coke label and a Cézanne painting in the same way. What is it's spread and frequency over time. How was it created ? What effects has it had on it's hosts. What memplexes is it connected to.
When I think of a thought, act or thing, I imagine it as a node on a web. It is connected in dimensions to other thoughts, actions or things. The more connections, the larger the node appears.
Music is just one example - but one that, second only to family, gives life a sense of purpose (a fiction that is essential to happiness).
Sound Samples - Classical Memes - 2min
All artists are in the business of meme creation. They may protest that they create for themselves. Those for whom this is true are unknown to us as their memes died with them. Musicians have been creating enormously powerful memes since the dawn of our species. I would predict that member of contemporary upperclass western culture would recognise most of these samples and be able to name at least a few.
These samples are memes in themselves - but much longer memes - one verse, one movement, the whole opus also exist at much lower frequency - how many people listen to the whole of even the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth ?
These atoms of culture when some memes loose power and other gain power.
Vocalisation as part of sound communication in addition to stamping, banging clubs, body stance and movement was probably in wide use between Hominoidea possibly up to 30 million years ago. Cultures evolved effective vocalisations for a range of situations - e.g. grooming, mating and most importantly - signalling and fighting.
protestations to being creating only for themselves
in form, from the viewpoint of their spread and of the way that that influence and thus history
way of thinking as the label brings together
Every thought, action or thing is a node in the web of existence with innumerable connections in space and time.
Consider "La Marseillaise". The name alone is recognised in probably more people than know of the town to which it refers. The tune is instantly recognisable by an even greater proportion. This powerful node links to France, nationalism, history, revolution, militarism, march music, battle music, and the commercialisation of memes.
Some people spend significant portions of their life in deliberate attempts to create memes. A meme's success is measured by it's frequency and spread over time and space. Beethoven, Dickens, Yves_Saint_Laurent - all created powerful memes through the creation of works that continue to replicate and spread all over the planet. Huge numbers of minor talents spend hours on the internet partly enticed by the faint possibility that their meme will go viral. The scale of the meme's recognition brings money and power.
Rouget de Lisle was explicitly set the task of enhancing the power of French troops by giving them a song to sing.
Many have used the meme's power by swapping their own lyrics - catholic, russia, civil war ec
Memes are a big business people trying with all their might to create them every day.
It is significant because it is one of the most successful musical memes on the planet at this moment. Since the most likely date of composition (25 April 1792), the music spread rapidly through France, then Europe, then North America, and has been "used" in a range of countries for a range of purposes by changing the lyrics.
The original purpose of the song was to improve the effectiveness of French soldiers.
Even though La Marseillaise sounds like a dinner sauce or a mispronunciation of Marseilles, it's sound is instantly recognisable by a very large proportion of people who grew up under the influence of almost any European Culture.
It's story could start with the earliest threat vocalisation that evolved probably in early chordates such as tetrapods even before the dinosaurs.
Marseilles sung as a military march with drums. (Révolution Française - La Chute du Roi Louis XVI)