Re: art not music

Subject: Re: art not music
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Sun Feb 27 2005 - 21:40:23 EST

> So, what did music evolve from?

Jury's out on that -- not known what "evolutionary
advantage" a faculty for music ensures.

Note that there IS a faculty for music -- the disorder
called "amusia" is evidence that something musical is

We probably do guess that we're not the only musicians
around -- as others here have pointed out. Animal cognition
studies are suggesting that the dividing line between us + them
is based on some additional stuff in us, to be sure -- but
not that much additional stuff.

Chomsky's new view (the "minimalist program") says that what's
unique about us is our capacity for recursion or recursive
thought -- musically speaking, that translates into our
capacity for big embedded structures (as I claim can be
found even in very simple melodies). C. thinks music studies
potentially seminal in opening up question.

My thought is that music is related somehow in kind to
dreaming and hypnotic states (ie, lullaby-potential), about which
we also know very little or nothing. Music isn't about sound so much as
recog. that we can elicit certain emotional/whatever effects with sounds
appropriately arranged. This isn't exactly a hypothesis about
anything, rather a suggestion that music is one of the
manifestations of our own mystery. Music is a way of dreaming
out loud, potentially causing the dream to be activated in
others. If we can discover why we need to dream we might discover
in that why we also need music.

The need to dream was explained by Freud in his way, and Crick
saw it as garbage collection, using lisp as a model of the mind,
in which storage cells have to be reclaimed. This seems
wooden and uninsightful. Our need to dream is possibly related
to the fact that people often hallucinate in conditions
of sensoryt deprivation. One of the earliet chroniclers
was Arthur Koestler, in Darkness at Noon, where he described
it as a "waking dream" that was something prisoners looked
forward to. Subsequent research (via Hebbs and others)
didn't turn up much else of account. One idea is that dreaming
comes first, and world-perception later. It's not likely we're
soon going to know very much about this.

This is a huge area, obviously, and my best summary is
"keep an open mind."

The aliveness of the mind, its insistence on objects of
perception, the fact that all perception is already construction
of a world (Newton pointed out that the rays that we perceive
as colors are actually colorless), etc. Music is somehow
contained within those requirements, capacities, etc. Visual
perception seems to be structured like a ghrammar of some sort:
almost certainly music "perception" as well. (quotes because
music is ALSO about the tactuality of sound, pre-grammatical,
complicated area about which we know nothing but can sort of guess,
as we're both doing here.)

You could say "isn't EA about that tactuality?" Only some

> Was the first lullaby necessarily musical?

Was it accompanied by rocking? Was the effect to calm the
baby? How did it do this? Was it repetitive? It may not have
been a tune so much as a sort of strophe (so someone once suggested
to me) that goes back and forth between two tones (I'm told,
something like a lower fourth, down and up, and then repeat) but
obviously we can't know. Does the infant feel love in the voice
and in the singing? Is love built-in?
The Evol. psychs say yes, because we see a clear advantage in
big-brained heavy-headed creature that needs years of pampering
protection etc. Music related to love? Complicated issue:
I'll discharge a simple "almost certainly" here.

> EA
> Music Language Other
> ALthough it's not exactly clear yet, I have recently come to a new
> understanding of EA. The general root EA branches into music, language and
> other. I understand EA as sound-based understanding.

I see what you're trying to get at, but I don't think I'd call
that EA for two reasons. First, music/art isn't about understanding
-- that's the theorist's job, which he usually fails at. music/art
is about activating, to my mind -- creating "impression" by way
of "expression." That's complex and unpredictable and becomes
like language at the point where the expressive or impressive potential
has been exhausted. viz "shock of the new," etc.

Second, what intrests me about EA is the idea of making
the creation of sound a sort of concrete operation, like
wielding a paintbrush or concretizing the role of the
orchestra conductor. I think the most interesting stuff is
about conveying exciting qualities of this new creative freedom,
always on the increase. Perhaps this is also why I feel
reservations about how the outcome could possibly be more
important than something undertaken with much more modest means
(recall thread of some years ago about making music by waving
sticks, which I found could pierce more quickly to the soul
by reason of its greater modesty and simplicity).

Superduper complicated technological art is always going to be
problematic, especially when we divide up those active and
those who are supposed to sit still and listen.
Everyone will eventually bcom eactive anyway and it's
the condition of EA to be avant-garde in its refusal
to acknowledge any such distinction. This is mostly why
the 'art" thing doesn't seem relevant to me, yet does impinge
on some sort of reality -- a universal creative practice and
a capoacity to be affected based on experience of practice,
rather than on a passive sentimentality.

As to mom #1 stuff, you might look up "mitochondrial eve," our
commmon mom, though not the first hs. At any rate good enough
for common music origin.

As to what is man, in me view, he is a musician. So that
rather begs the question but at least helps us know we're doing
something we should be doing.

-- eliot

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