Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson

Subject: Re: Quick guide to postmodernism (was: Re: Gibson
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 18:21:43 EDT

Richard Wentk wrote:

> At 20:44 04/10/2005, you wrote:
>> But "narrative" doesn't necessarily mean that we can put it into words.
> Actually in the original sense it mostly does, as I'll explain below.
> But even if you're right I still think we're talking about a
> collection of discrete perceptual processes which may or may not be
> related, and not a single one.
> Do narratives that are put into words have different qualities,
> properties and elements than those that don't? I think they do.
>> Once again, back to the bergson example. You play a stacc. note (say,
>> c5), wait 5 seconds, and then play d5.
>> the hypothesis here is that you hear the d5 as the c5 "having gone
>> up." That's a narratization.
> Or is it just a metaphorical attempt to relate one kind of experience
> to a different one? Would a volume change be just as much of a
> narratization? If not, why not?

Ok, well that's Jaynes' other criteria: consciousness is an analogical
simulation of actual behavior. The
behavioral analogy of c-d is "I went from here to there." (The Jayne's
stuff I'm quoting from is
"consciousness and the voices of the mind," 1986, available online.)

I would like to know whether amusics -- people who can't understand
music -- fail to make those
connections. and I once asked Isabelle Peretz whether she'd examined
this but she hadn't. It wouldn't
surprise me if the connectivity narratization were lacking.


> I think you'll find that even though the PM types stole the idea of
> narrative - or rather meta-narrative - from linguistics, and from
> there it drifted into academic analysis as a sort-of-useful word for
> certain kinds of criticism, the original meaning includes elements
> that are missing from your example.
> Most verbal narratives, in the sense of novels, dramas, films,
> mythologies, and so on, aren't just stories with characters and some
> kind of a plot. The defining element is that they're really *fables*
> with a definite moral premise.

They're "value-driven."

> The narrative exists to communicate and illustrate this premise, and
> not as a structural entity for its own sake. (If you study fiction
> writing this one of the first things you learn.)
> A surprising amount of writing, from journalism to novel writing to
> literary criticism, has this idea as a basis. It's not just about
> creating structure and dynamics for the sake of it, but about
> suggesting that the world is a certain way and that there's a right
> and useful way in which to relate to it.
> Now, the author may be dead [tm], and this doesn't mean that verbal
> narratives are accurate or reliable or can't be questioned. That's a
> different topic.
> But it does mean the foundation of verbal narrative and musical
> narrative can't be so very closely related. Because creating a fable
> to communicate a premise in this way through sound alone (never mind
> song, which is a hybrid form) is something that doesn't seem quite so
> fundamental in composition as it does in story telling. And it's
> certainly not the same as creating perceptual tension in the abstract
> and suggesting possible resolutions to it.

There could be some different explanations. One is that the moral
premise is simply wrong, as is proved
by the existence of music. And I think it may be wrong. The moral
premise idea seems like the
evolutionary psychology idea that our minds evolved as they did to
confer upon us certain
social advantages. For instance, we know how to reason because it's
advantageous to be able to detect
cheaters. The moral premise theory is giving a certain social purpose to
storytelling -- it's reining us in
and teaching us right from wrong. But music doesn't teach us this, or,
as far as I know, teach us anything.
And as evolutionary psychology has no explanation for music, I find the
whole theory
implausible! Music is our main defense against these too-simple theories
of the mind.

 I've recently become interested in children's games as something
related to the biolofgical origins
of music. A simple example of such a game is "rhyming" -- so you see
this can go pretty far. The narratization of
a rhyme is nothing more than the expectency that the pattern will be
pursued -- the rhyme in itself
gives us pleasure as children or adults in some way that seems to me
related to the problem of
object constancy. Psychoanalytically this is easy to explain as being an
analogy from the disappearance and
reappearance of mom, so it could value-driven in that way, and bring in
the universe of morality. Of course
that's a rather coarse theoretical narratization. Even so I don't see
how to make the evolutionary psych leap
(if paid, maybe I could come up with something.)

So let me put the question to you: what's the moral premise underlying
our enjoyment of rhymes? Or of
my favorite nursery rhyme -- "ring a round a rosy?" Does the
narratization go anywhere? (I think
I could take both sides on this.) It seems to me that it's the process
of getting to the end that's critical.

I haven't started to do any research on children's games yet -- I'm
still just mulling it over.Yet I'm completely
convinced that they're present in all music in a very substantive way.
And these games to imply narratization,
or at least that's my current thinking.

-- eliot

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