Frank Wales wrote:
>Karl Miller wrote:
>>Others suggest that our thinking might be limited to that which
>>we can articulate. ...
>This sounds like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the notion that what we can
>think about is limited by the languages we have learned.
>This has always seemed obviously bogus to me, because I have sometimes
>been in a situation where I couldn't remember the words for something,
>but I knew what the 'something' was. If language determined thinking,
>I could never end up in the situation like this, yet having something
>"on the tip of my tongue" is surely a commonplace experience. ...
Perhaps I didn't express myself correctly, but I was "thinking" that
language might limit thinking, not necessarily determine it.
For me, your stated notion of not being able to describe something in
words is, indeed, where my music came from. There are times (I can see
them coming now to lock me away) where I would like to be able to speak
music to express myself...I could sit at the piano, but unfortunately
the music I would like to speak needs an orchestra.
>>... I would think that the limitations
>>of the notation of sound might be akin to the limitations of language,
>>yet, computer music allows us to create sounds without notation and the
>>"limitations" of acoustic instruments. ...
>I think the major reason for the existence of notation is communication
>across space and time; with the advent of recording and distribution
>technologies, notation becomes less important. "If you hum it, son,
>I'll play it," and all that.
And indeed, one can now copyright a recording without any notation to
>I'd be very surprised if notational short-comings actually limited how
>musicians thought about music, since I don't know anyone who learned
>about music solely through working with the notation, rather than hearing
>or performing it.
In the study of notation one realizes that some music was indeed highly
influenced by notation.
>I think music is the interaction of two things: the natural rhythmic and
>periodic activities that are at the heart of us as living creatures, and
>that permeate biological life generally; and our inherent pattern-
>matching skills that provide the basis for our intelligence. ...
Is music an audio manifestation of human biology?
>Even where there's just noise, we try to find signals.
I am reminded of both gestalt psychology and a specific piece of Xenakis:
Bohor. Bohor is pretty much a piece of steady state music, except at
the end where it builds up in amplitude. When we listened to it in
graduate school the lights were turned out and the room was close to
dark. We were asked to close our eyes and concentrate, which I did. I
heard (or made up) all sorts of sounds out of the white/pick noise.
>Music contains patterns, both intricate and crude, subtle and blatant,
>that tease our abilities to follow them, and predict them, and remember
>them. We can't help but be intrigued by music, because pattern-searching
>is another part of what we are.
Yet, do you think we conciously try to pick out the patterns when we
listen, or do we listen passively?
>Having those patterns come in the form of comforting rhythms only
>serves to strengthen their appeal, which is why I think music is
>so pervasive throughout human history.
>Does that make sense?
Yes. I have often thought that much of the appeal of music has to do
with the parallels to biological rhythms. Yet I also believe that its
ability to free us from the limitations of words can also be its appeal
for some. I don't believe everyone finds that aspect significant for I
believe most of us use music to sooth...as it mirrors biological rhythms.
As I type this I am reminded of the first time I listened to Stockhausen's
Kontakte. It did not use rhythmic patterns I could understand, nor were
there "melodies" in the conventional sense of the word. However, I could
follow a logic as to the transformation of the sounds. With headphones
on they would swirl around inside my head and go through some sort of
metamorphosis that I could follow. In a sense it was almost like sound
sculpture. I should add that it is the only piece of his that I have
heard that has made much sense to me.
Perhaps it is a bit like abstract art where images need not have a clear
relationship to actual objects.
I also think about it in terms of physics, as physics can describe
something that might exist but has yet to be seen or discovered.
Does this make sense?