Sound, including that crafted-ness among humans called 'music', is the direct language of analogue. More about that in a minute.
Language about language is called meta-linguistics, or something like that. But, what do we call sound about sound? Answer: Music.
There’s a reason why humans, primitive or otherwise, don’t typically dance around a fire in silence: you can’t feel the common connections to others UNLESS you can sense being enveloped in their own vibrations of the air around you. Speech is not so much a dance as is singing...
...and when singing is performed without words, it's like a dance in ZERO G. Ever danced in the ISS? No? Try it some time. Skydivers eat your hearts out.
I think of music as ‘sound about sound’: meta-acoustics. And, as much as sound is vibrant motion, I think of music as meta-dynamics. Even, that music is the ‘royal’ science: subsuming to the human mind all kinds of dynamics, connecting the brain together as much as connecting people together. To me, it’s a cyclical thing, not linear in origin, but holistic, whole-cloth. The ‘normal-chicken-presupposes-the-ability-to-lay-eggs’ kind of whole-cloth-ness.
But, there currently is a theory among reputable scientists that music is, or at least originated as, a cheap thrill. Even Steven Pinker, one of my favorite human beings, calls music ‘linguistic cheesecake’. I call this the ‘disparaging theory’ of music .
This ‘disparaging theory’ allows music to be thought of not only as currently ancillary to human well-being, but as currently constituting a burden upon human constructive, scientific, and educational potential. Pinker opines, for example, that humans can live just as well without music as with. But, I think Pinker is being ‘hastily objective’: indifferent to any sense about anything except what can be used to 'disabuse people of their illusions of being persons'. Such hastily 'objective' indifference cannot help but overlook some of the most important things: things so important as to be as essential for human well-being as those things are instinctive to the most vibrant of human individuals.
Bruce Williams, the advice-based radio talk show host of Talk Net (or, is now called The Bruce Williams Show?), had originally tried to earn his pilot’s license on the then-standard flight simulator.
But, he found the simulation so unlike an actual aircraft in actual flight that he failed to perform the simulated test to the level of his own actual piloting of an actual, flying aircraft. He so failed it that he failed to pass the sim test. Still, determined that he was ready for the test of his piloting skills, he took the sim test again, and again; but, to no avail. Even then, the licensing bureaucracy expected him to earn his license by way of the sim.
Finally, after he bitched enough about the fact that he found personally insurmountable disparities between the sim and an actual aircraft in actual flight, the licensing bureaucracy allowed him to show his piloting skills in an actual flight in an actual aircraft. He passed the real test, and thereby earned his pilot’s license.
My point in this anecdote is three-fold:
One, the symbiosis of actual airplane and actual pilot, is, by definition, not competing with a flight simulator and its Stooge of a ‘pilot’. This is because the latter ‘symbiosis’ (the sim-and-’pilot’) is based on the former symbiosis, not the other way around.
Two, based on One, there exists is an actual hierarchy demanding all due consideration. And, this demand exists in every bit of the cosmos, about any given two things, no matter how similar they are to each other. In fact, to make a flight simulator that really ‘works as advertised’ for ‘most’ persons, a lot of thought, and a lot of testing, has to go into it.
Three: language is the simulator. This webpage is dedicated to explaining the actual thing being simulated.
Music is the direct language of analogue. This is because sounds have visceral power over biology. And, the reason sounds have this power is because, basically, sound is vibration—that prince of motions.
But, in the absence of an accurate history of human hearing, a pedantic turn of mind easily is lead to insist that music is valuable only to the extent that it abides the formal and intellectual standards of language. Even Steven Pinker:
‘Music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of…our mental faculties. Music could vanish from our species and the rest of our lifestyle would continue [on as it always has].’
But, music isn’t competing. And, that’s part of the point. The other part is where everything has its respective (non-simulated) definition.
To deny that music, as such, is a justified use of sounds is tantamount to denying the utility of the biological propensity for visceral reaction to motion. So, to say that music is unjustified is like saying that perception of color and depth is unjustified.
Music is the biological ability to identify connection, harmony, and equality-within-‘hierarchy’. So, the more facility a specific kind of organism has to appreciate and manipulate sounds, the more flexibly and quickly that kind of organism can adapt itself to the complexities and hierarchies both of an evolving environment and of a change of environment. Ever see a dog try to make a woven nest of twigs?
Music is visceral response to sounds, regardless of language content. So, making music is the art of cooperating with sound to directly affect our biological selves. In fact, making music began by using sounds as avatars, to dance with other sounds, and thus reach across biological space to penetrate the core of another living being. As I said at the beginning, music is the direct language of analogue. Music is SETI before there were such simulations as ‘extraterrestrials’: the fetus’s perception of the Great Wide Beyond.
The exquisite differences between, and respective advantages of, language and music cannot be discovered by trying to force music to fit the mold of language. These differences and advantages are discovered only by playfully asking language to try to fit the mold of music. Just like men are civilized only by appreciating women as women, pedantic intellectualism begins truly appreciating music only by seeing how language needs music as music. Here’s a hint:
Imagine a subtly-toned lullaby. Then imagine the invariant speech of the ostensibly feminine, eminently ‘rational’ ‘Computer’ in the original Star Trek TV series (imagine your mother talked like that, from your earliest memory and ever thereafter). That ‘Computer’ voice is alarmingly anti-conclusive with every phrase, evoking in the normal human hearer the sense that that ‘Computer’ either has no awareness of the simplest dynamics of the real world, or is coldly indifferent to them.
Of course, the logical extreme of ‘rationality’ might point out the supposed superiority of ‘Computer’’s voice by noting the indisputable fact that a tonally and rhythmically invariant speech requires the least over-all energy to produce. But, I would reply, just barely to start with, that life is not defined as a coldly ‘rational’ indifference. I would even go on to assert that only a Vulcan couple could actually feel duty-bound to the sense that the only reason to be co-joined to begin with is for an abstraction called ‘survival of the species/group/genes’. No doubt, the feeble require a certain remove from the vigorous.
But, the enfeebled are not the standard by which life is defined, but only by which the enfeebled are defined. Give me a wheelchair if I can’t walk, but otherwise get off my back about the supposed general pointlessness of long walks (“one should either rest or produce, not waist valuable time ambling for the sake of ambling”). Life is a two-legged thing, not a pogo stick trying to mimic a two-legged gate. I once saw a lithe eighty-one-year-old woman who, partly for having swum four hours a day for decades, had a gate so graceful, with strides so long, that I would have been stunned even had it been on a twenty-year-old supermodel (I’ve never seen any other human being, supermodel or otherwise, who walked so gracefully). So, jump and hop, if you must. Just don’t denigrate one of my legs in favor of the other (much less both).
Most of the non-human animals seem to have no use for a thoroughgoing distinction between one vocal sound and another: it’s all grunts and squeaks to them, no music. It seems palpably obvious to most humans that music could readily be produced, or, at least, danced to, by our pet dogs, pet cats, etc., if only they cared to. But, for some reason, only our pet birds seem willing and able to engage musically in music. The birds so involve themselves with music that many of them bob on their perches to its rhythms. But, those same birds seem nearly as inclined to enjoy mimicking the sounds of the clothes drier as the tune of the little girl’s music box. But, too, these birds are well-known for distinguishing the basic semantic values of human language forms, as well as reproducing those forms. Even beyond the animals, in the likes of that rare group of humans with Williams syndrome, the triad of language, empathy, and music are so bound together that one wonders if a human life even can be viable which lacks any one of the three. Helen Keller is evidence to suggest that mere absence of language behavior in a human is due to lack of appropriate stimuli and interaction: imagine if everyone but you could see, but only you could hear.
So, a perfectly mono-tonal and mono-rhythmic speech is efficient only in the sense of constituting a minimal set of tools for conveying information. Part of the shortfall of such a minimal set is that a given part of the complex cosmos is qualitatively more complex than that with which an anti-visceral-istic, Vulcan isolationism can cope. This is a hint to the fact that intelligence is, partly, an instinct of social emotion—as any dog-lover knows. Think about it: social empathy is the force of connections that, at its height in human beings, allows the successes of those among us who have the greatest access to (the) collective (resources of) humanity.
Hint over. Back to the long road to a life-affirming kind of simplicity in thinking about the relationship between language and music.
Music is harmony in disparity of voice, which is what makes orchestral music possible: the sounds of different instruments are appreciated directly, and, thus, the hosts of their analogues come to play in our brain. But, the language contents of an ‘orchestra’ of speakers, in which each person speaks a respectively different thought, cannot so easily be understood. This is—to put it overly simply—because language is that special device for causing us to focus on the chronological details of one distinct voice, and this for the purpose of inferring objective ideas from that voice. If you want something on the spectrum of white noise, then an ‘orchestra’ of speakers can do the job. It’s only when the rainforest jungle goes quite—as it rarely does—that you really sit up and listen.
But, since language is the device of attaining someone’s undivided attention (as I hope you notice in reading this written language), language is concerned for the interplay of maximum effect and maximum efficiency. So, among doing other things, auditory language co-opts music. In fact, in order for speech not to co-opt music, the living speaker would have to make special effort to pre-edit the musicality out of her speech: she would have to mentally simulate the alarmingly anti-conclusive monotony which is the pedantic version of an ‘irrational admiration of the rational’. Not even an autistic person normally speaks like ‘Computer’ of the original Star Trek TV series.
Again, essentially, sound is motion. But, more importantly, hearing is the brain’s most refined, most specialized, most sensitive sense of motion. After all, if you want to keep yourself alive, well, and in one tightly knit piece, you can’t just go get carried off—like so much loose mud—by every wind and tide. You have to vibrate, and you have to do so as your own, coherent, self. In short, the living organism, by definition, is a musical instrument. Best keep yourself tuned up.
The use of language to study the data, ideas, and mental processes involved in language may be called meta-linguistics. But, the use of sound to study sound is like fine dining on the far side of the moon—after a lake has been put in, complete with atmosphere, flora, and birds, butterflies, and bumblebees. Fine dining in 1-fifth G, that’s music: the ecstasy of an enveloping-ly pleasant contrast to the usual. And, music is so very free to change, to be changed, to change us, make us grow.
But, what about ‘non-music’ kinds of sounds? Imagine any such sounds that you currently find ethereally relaxing. These sounds seem to invite and inspire you to a blissful calm, such as that by which you may fall asleep at the end of the day, if not at midday. The need for regular rest is a part of our life. Ideally, we take rest from a good day of joyous activity. But, in the imperfect world of which we are a part, we have even more need of rest: we need rest from bad days of overwork, troublesome toil and contention, frailty, and, sometimes, disease. So, some sounds invite us to rest.
The question, then, becomes, what constitutes music? If even ‘non-music’ sounds can do what it may seem that Pinker thinks that only boni fide music can do, then are we to avoid all enjoyment of sounds for sounds’ sake?
Imagine a cave man discovers a pleasant lone note by blowing a certain way over a piece of bamboo. He finds another note in a different piece of bamboo, and ‘before you know it’ he has made the world’s first pan flute. According to Pinker’s way of thinking, the sounds this cave man makes with such a device is not art, but the one and only possible abstract non-ingest-ive drug. The wonderous contemplation on a beautiful rainbow is not a drug, but a pleasant contemplation on that first bamboo note is? Hearing has a direct…what to the brain, while sight does not? Answer: direct emotive power.
Hearing has a direct, relatively 'passive', emotive power to the whole brain. Like relaxed breathing for the ears. But, how does sound have such direct power? Incorrect answer(?): because of some obscure and arbitrary, happenstance in our collective past? No. Correct answer: because hearing is the fetus’s first dedicated sense of the world beyond itself, and even beyond the mother’s body:
"Momma interacts with voices outside herself, and she feels things in
response to those interactions. I see light and shadow, and many of these
correspond to sounds outside of my abiding momma(’s sounds).
"Mere contact and occasional pressures are not that dependably an
occurrence. But, so many sounds are dependable, and many more are at least
"I can hear my own heartbeat, like Momma’s, so I know she has something like my heart which I have driven to grow within me once it began.
"There even were some occasions, many of them, in which I heard a third heart. There is a third person out there with Momma, like I am here with her, but so powerful that that third person does not depend on Momma to be alive and to grow."
So, given that hearing is the most refined and specialized sense of sound (in that sound is vibrant motion, which we can feel in general, but which our brain pays special attention to), music is the reflection of social communality in itself—like a finely cut diamond. Let me now show you a little of that diamond:
The relationship between the respective physical senses is not generically ‘equal’, but hierarchically equal. Only the latter, equality-within-hierarchy, provides opportunity for the existence of a compound. A diamond is one kind of compound, and a high-tech carbon fiber structure is another. A third is concrete, and a fourth is adhesive duck tape.
Of course, there are such things as hierarchically unequal compounds. One such compound is the augmentation of human mental powers by way of electronic ‘computers’. The human membership of this compound is over-all superior, because the augmentation is one-way. The ‘computer’ is not the membership being augmented. Only in mutually augmented relationships is there possibility for essential equality between distinct memberships.
(‘Computers’ are essentially no better at storing knowledge than is a rock at storing knowledge. In fact, these ‘computers’ are nothing more than glorified hammers for denting or smashing rocks. It is we who use the variably whacked ‘rocks’ as memory-assist tokens to help us keep track of, and refine, our own knowledge. To say that one of these ‘computers’ actually knows anything is like saying that the printed ink marks in a book actually know what the book is about.)
An example of a basic hierarchic equality is that between sight and hearing. Sight and hearing are equal in a most important way. But, beyond that, their relationship is quite complex and dynamic. The complex differences between them are not as straight-forwardly understood as is a simple set in pure mathematics. This is because of the mediums on which sight and hearing respectively depend:
Light is the much, much faster medium than sound. In fact, there is almost no comparison between the speed of light and that of sound. In that way (and in some other ways I won’t get into here), sight has a certain kind of superior functional investment. At extreme distance, the light from, or reflected by, an object allows predictive interaction with the wider world. Light is like the cave man’s (or, Bear Grylls’) Internet. If you think your hearing is good enough by itself, try surviving alone in the jungle for a week while blindfolded. The jungle is nothing like a cozy cityscape complete with helpful people.
But, hearing has its own kind of better power: local and intermediate range, with a passive and otherwise low-energy usage: you don’t need to turn your head, nor even blink, to perceive sounds. And, in so far as hearing is that specialization of sensory labor for the fetus’s refined perception of motion-and-touch to the mother, hearing is the more ‘intimate’, and more-fully-related, sense. There’s a reason why humans, primitive or otherwise, don’t typically dance around a fire in silence: you can’t feel the common connections to others UNLESS you can sense being enveloped in their own vibrations of the air around you. Speech is not so much a dance as is singing...
...and when singing is performed without words, its like a dance in ZERO G. Ever danced in the ISS? No? Try it some time. Skydivers eat your hearts out.
Contrary to posing as a woman’s voice, 'Computer' actually is the epitome of the male penchant for a personally defensive indifference. Further, in being given a woman’s voice, ‘Computer’ is the mad scientist’s logically extreme worship of this ‘efficient’, or ‘rational’ indifference: “It’s alive!” the mad scientist shouts, as he brings his ‘female’ robot companion to life. Then, to make ‘her’ ‘even better’, he proceeds to make ‘her’ indifferent, emotionless, and joyless.
So, the mad scientist has created the Vulcan goddess: a mere projection of his own sense of passionless objectivity. Baby Loves to Dance in the Dark: The ideal mating couple behave as such for nothing more lively and personal than a shared ‘logical’ abstraction called ‘survival of the species’. The end doesn’t even recognize the means, much less as co-equal. So, “damn a cyclical ecology of life and joy. We’re better than to entertain emotions of our own for each other.” As Spock’s father said in answer to why he married a human woman: “It seemed the logical thing to do at the time.”
It’s apparently ideal to wish one kids have an abundance of life in them, but the decrepitly ‘scientific’ adults of a Vulcan idealism eschew such abundance for themselves. If they’re frailty requires a lesser activity than in their youth, yet they make it into the new universal standard of action and reason.
So, the Peacock hates his plume, not because he’s color blind, but because he’s so agedly un-abundant that he finds his plume unnecessarily heavy. And, since he’s the top dog in a rat-eat-horse world, he gets the weightiest public vote, by private reference to his frailty, on what is objective and what’s, what’s a good animal and what’s not. “Rats for everyone! And, to heck with horses. Because horses, in making poor rats, clearly are inferior animals, even distorted.”
But, let me, for a moment, ‘do one better’ on the precedent of the ‘disparaging theory’ of music: a ‘globally negative’ musicology, with a cats vs. birds dichotomy of musicality.
Cats neither sing nor dance to human music, and seem indifferent to it. Does this mean cats are overly concerned with their dignity? Do they come from some Vulcan version of the British Isles, where even a simplest whistled tune seems so ‘gaudy’ that it can make a gray concrete cubist statue blush in ‘self-consciousness’?
Birds so readily and automatically not only sing and dance, they even mimic the sounds of the washing machine. Does this mean birds are too stupid to realize they’re making fools of themselves in ‘objective’ eyes? Are birds the bane of respectable society, or perhaps the stooges to entertain such society? And, if birds are foolish for so obviously and ‘simple-mindedly’ enjoying sounds as such, then is respectable society foolish for playing music in order to make these fool birds dance to it? Is the very presence of music palpably ‘gaudy’, so that anyone who actually enjoys music is too stupid to realize its gaudiness?
But, think about that gray concrete cubist statue, the one which this globally negative spin on music could hypothesize ought to blush at the sound of a simplest tune. In view of the ‘disparaging theory’ of music, this statue’s ‘dutiful’ blush implies that music is too organic to be justified. The moment has passed. Enter the organic:
The operative idea here is ‘organic’-ness. And, the question is whether anything can be too organic. I say no, and the reason why may surprise you:
Science is a fitness function of intelligence. Good science is a fitness function of wonder and inspiration. Music is a prime fitness function of wonder and inspiration, and vice versa. In fact, music is the prime expression and reinforcement of freedom and connection, of differentiated autonomy and loving interdependence, harmony in variety.
With concurrent variety of speech sources and forms, you get cacophony and white noise. But, with intelligent cooperation of various merely acoustic sources, you get the jaw-dropping mutual reflection called ‘orchestra’, and the more and wider variety of instruments the better.
So, while the party-cacophony on the spectrum of white noise can be soothing and mood-setting, that orchestra is sheer epiphany of sound. One wishes not to be limited to either orchestra or party, but to have both, and each in complementary place and occasion. I dare say language and music are half-part to each other, just like male and female in a galaxy of stars. No linear thing, this. To have one is to have the other.
But, the ‘disparaging theory’ of music attacks music and its analogues in the same non-organic, ‘digitally’ rationalistic way that, early in the last century, was used to presume that the appendix was, at best, vestigial. A mere fifty years ago, it was still standard to frame the appendix strictly within an utter ignorance of its usefulness: it was a burden to the system. So, any problems with the appendix itself were forcibly ‘defined’ by this digital scientific paradigm as helping confirm the already effectively omniscient conclusion that the appendix currently has no fitness function. Similarly, today, this ‘digital’ school of thought ‘defines music down’ by construing music as having no cost-effective fitness advantage, or, at best, as having originated as unjustified escapism from the rigors of fitness-exercising competitive(?) activity. And, as many of us already are aware, so many popular musical artists seem unable to keep their popularity from getting the better of them.
Of course, if music is thought to have originated as escapism, then any claim to its current fitness function seems justifiably doubted. In turn, if music is accorded no current cost-effective fitness function, then all other kinds of ‘down-time’ from the rigors of competition also are cast in doubt, including sleep, relaxation, individuality, and, even, every kind of love that makes society and civilization worthwhile or cost-effective. In short, this ‘digital’ scientific paradigm reconceives life as more-or-less the slave to life’s own rational servants, thereby increasingly producing a caste system of haves and have-nots of scientific and prosaic expertise, wonder and inspiration, and, in turn, making the institutions of science and scholarship increasingly impotent as a means of maintaining, much less advancing, humanity.
If acoustic art is inherently unjustified, then so are all other creative expressions of the human joy in creative expressive ability. The study of language through the use of language is a self-reflective activity. But, such study typically is as much toil as joy: as witness of those like Wittgenstein and Chomsky, it naturally is burdened with both contestation and defense of competing theories about ‘The Nature’ of language. Enjoying music, on the other hand, whether through playing it or listening to others play, is more like watching a sunset or the stars, or like eating a good meal around an ideally happy table. To paraphrase Solomon, the purpose of living is to be refreshed in being alive in all the direct forms of living. And, what did Solomon say about a ‘life’ of academic study: it so easily is a burden to the flesh. For myself, in face of so much thought in just writing all this defense of music, all the angst and long hours and re-re-rewriting, I ‘like that Old Time Rock and Roll’.
Language in the acoustic medium, which we call speech, does not have a monopoly on the use of sound, much less on the justified use of sound. But, it’s not a contest. Music is organic to speech, not adverse to speech. Dance is the direct reflection on the beauty inherent in the form of the dancer. Likewise, music is the direct acoustic reflection on the beauty inherent in speech. Just like a baby who has yet to understand the words.
MUSIC AS ARCHITECTURE
Music, that most omnipresent of solids, is a prime referent to our experience of ourselves and of the world. This is because, in so far as sound is motion, music is sound made in mind of itself. And, in so far as we living creatures each are a case of ‘motion that coheres’, music is sound made in mind of each of us, of each other, and of our world.
So, music is a prime inspirer to our understanding ourselves, each other, the world, and the relations between the three: We are not empty machines going through motions for the glory of those who have a sense of their own purpose. So, we should not, even in effect, be made to feel that we should be such machines. We should not be made to feel, even unwittingly, that we have a duty to ‘kiss up’ to those whom, by their seeming to have genuine and even rightful power to make or break our lives, claim to know not only their own general purpose and exact function, but ours. Male vs. female.
So, music is a liberator from an irrational admiration of the rational. The man or woman who enjoys music therein returns to a primordial sense of sound.
An example of the irrational admiration of the ‘rational’ is seen, or, rather, heard, in non-character of ‘Computer’ on the original Star Trek TV series. The output of mono-tonic speech may well require less total energy than is required for normal, ‘musical’ speech. But, living humans are not a matter primarily of absolute, indifferent stasis, nor, even, of a defensive rationalistic self-isolation. Only a feebly ‘Vulcan’ rationalist could think they ought to be. To borrow on Lady Gaga’s popular song, a purely mono-tonal voice is a ‘Bad Romance’ between a pretense at rationality and a virtually senseless sense of ‘efficiency’. Even a cocooned pre-butterfly, which we deeply admire, is not that self-isolated.
Life is always a dance between two opposite-and-complementary forces, while death and feebleness are a lopsided relationship between those forces. Though life requires recuperative margins, life is not stasis and indifference. Of course, many ‘introverted’ men naturally require more alone-time than their wives may wish, in order to recover from even the slightest kinds of disharmonious interpersonal experience. But, a perfectly anti-prosodic voice easily is as alarmingly cacophonous, in its own way, as any happy-go-lively dinner party in the ear of a man hung-over-with-headache from the previous evening’s party. And, in any case, a not-so-trivial element in the enjoyment of the party is the architectural and decorative particulars in which the party is hosted. Only a Vulcan could insist that the objectively best architecture in which to host a gathering is a featureless and matte neutral gray cube.
Verbing the Trophy Professors
In its organic-ness, both in itself an in relation to speech, I dare say music is the mother of natural philosophy.
But, naturally philosophy is what, today, over-simplistically and often over-reverently is referred to as ‘science’. So, if you’re a professional ‘scientist’, you’re typically accorded at least the status of a fellow-assassin in the Bourne Identity, if not that of a Jason Bourne. And, as often as not, a kind of War of Ideas breaks out over your work and over your name, whether you want it, or foresaw it, or not. And, by way of the deep respected-hood of your scientist-hood, some people really do undergo deep distress at being told by you that music rationally may be theorized as originating as a cheap thrill that detracted from the exercise of survival fitness.
On that note, I have a hunch that language presupposes the ability to make-and-appreciate music: abnormally lopsided developmental trajectories aside, the greater the general facility with language, the greater the facility with music, at least in enjoying hearing it.
Birds can sing and dance human tunes, and some dogs seem to love howling at those tunes. But, the fact that the adult brain exhibits a more-or-less strict modularity does not, according to one woman scientist, mean that the human brain begins, in infancy, as particularly modular. She says that infants’ brains are far less modular, far more ‘blank’ or plastic or…organic.
If that woman scientist is right in saying that infant brains are much less modular than the adult brain, then the fact that the brains of human adults consistently map onto each other may have more to do with different allocative strengths of different brain regions, and less with innate specializations of those regions, than popularly believed.
The differing allocative strengths of different brain regions can be imagined top be somewhat like left- and right-handedness. Which hand typically becomes specialized to the ‘grunt’ work, so to speak, may depend, say, on the non-symmetrical statistics of the geometry of daily living. In other words, the hand typically to become ‘favored’ may depend mainly on things having nothing to do with which pre-primed hand would have been better at a given task in a statistically symmetrical practical environment. But, music...
...I seem to recall reading that music activates more brain regions than any specialized internal or external activity can, or even than any other activity whatever can. It may be that a simple subdued lullaby, in words the baby has yet to understand, is far more conducive to the brain’s fabled ‘default mode network’ than anything else. As a famed ancient eastern philosopher replied to how he was to insightful, ‘I just sit and forget’. Or, as Jack Black sang in School of Rock, “Baby, we was makin’ straight A’s, but we were stuck in the dumb days.”
Compare the notion of too much organic-ness to the very common pitfalls of over-analyzing and over-theorizing. It once was theorized not only that the size of the cranium corresponded to intelligence, but that intelligence was so unitary that anyone who could speak well was highly intelligent. The prolific study of Williams syndrome and autism have blown that theory back to the proverbial Stone Age where it belongs, along with the square-wheel theoretical precedent that compelled the triangular wheel as a hypothetically better wheel. I think the ‘scientific’ hunch that ‘music is a cheap thrill’ is a similarly backward precedent.
And, then, there’s all the bad precedents that allow the mis-judging of instances of language, from what an ‘accent’ is and what a given accent ‘sounds like’, to Calvin’s uptight teachers’ notion of when a verb is not allowed to be verbed: as in, “Music shall not be musiced! It shall be left as its original random sounds! Sit still at your desk and pay attention, Calvin, or you’ll fail this class and grow up an ignorant and incompetent nobody!
But, verbing weirds language only if you understand the words too conventionally. Organic versus convention, that’s the question: of which one can we get too much? To borrow on something I think Mark Twain said, ‘I never trust a man’s reasons who can spell cognitive psychology only one linear way.’
Like science and civilization, music is a cumulative and inter-connective enterprise. And, music is the original of the three.
1. THE TWINS
2. THE VULCAN GOD
3. PURPOSE MISDRAWN
4. COCOONS OF PROOF
5. A LITTLE LIGHT OF LOVE
6. THE ANALOGUE PLANET
Language and music are two perfectly complementary, effective, and equally powerful ways with sounds. Compare a lullaby to the purely invariant speech of Star Trek’s ‘Computer’: the latter is alarmingly anti-conclusive with every phrase, evoking in the normal human hearer the sense that the owner of that voice is, at best, unaware of even the simplest algorithms of the living world, or, at worst, is unresponsive and un-adaptive to them.
The output of mono-tonic speech may well require less total energy than is required for normal, ‘musical’ speech. But, living humans are not a matter primarily of absolute, indifferent stasis—and only a feebly ‘Vulcan’ rationalist could think they ought to be. A purely mono-tonal voice is a ‘bad romance’ between a pretense at rationality and a virtually senseless sense of ‘efficiency’. Even a cocooned pre-butterfly, which we deeply admire, is not that self-isolated. Life is always a dance of two opposite but complementary forces. Death and feebleness are a lopsided relationship between those forces, with disease the state between feebleness and death.
Every good thing is connected in a cycle, round and round again, and expanding outward as it goes, more complex. It is not a linear history of one thing being merely subordinate to another, of some things being less useful than others. When people while away days and months of idle time, they do not wait like robots for the weather to thaw in order to act and live. They do not settle for the painfully boring process of cognitive and physical atrophy. They do art. They sing stories, play melodies without words, paint with different colors of sand, and make beautiful weavings in their fabrics and rugs. Music is not a dead-end waste, unless all art is a dead-end waste. There is no dead-end to any good thing. It always go around to all other good things, including to the few things which turn out to be the most critical in competition against severe natural circumstances.
Music is the direct pleasant appreciation of sound and silence. Hence, the refined, pattern-intensive form of most instances of musical artifact (i.e., music production).
Natural vocal language is a specialized, ideationally distinguishing use of sound. Natural language has no theoretical limit to the number, quality, and details of ideas it can be used to express. As such, natural language vocal is concerned with efficiency of communicating ideational details; Hence the limit of the sounds of a vocal language to a small subset of all possible vocalizations. Artificial language is a further refinement on the specialization which is natural language.
So, natural language is the main means of communicating observations of physics, psychology, etc. (i.e., science).
Music, on the other hand, in being the most dynamic and analog architecture, is the foundation of the inspiration of scientific endeavor. Music literally is audible architecture, but more so: it often includes a sense of motion in space. In fact, motion is the very root of sound, so music often is expression of its own root.
Again, music is the direct pleasant sense of the architecture of sound and silence. Material architecture is as much about the space as about the things in and around the space: A particular sense of the space is created in the particular observer by how the space is contained and occupied.
Science is a fitness function of intelligence. Good science is a fitness function of wonder and inspiration. Music is a prime fitness function of wonder and inspiration, and vice versa. Music is freedom, creation, connection.
But, music and it analogues are under attack by the same ‘digitally’ rationalistic paradigm that presumed that the appendix was, at best, vestigial: Fifty years ago, the appendix was deliberately framed strictly within an utter ignorance of its function. Any drawbacks to the appendix forced this ‘digital’ scientific paradigm to the presumptuously omniscient conclusion that the appendix is merely a risky vestige of a long-ago outdated function.
Similarly, today, this same ‘digital’ school of thought ‘defines music down’ by construing music as having no cost-effective fitness advantage, or, at worst, as having originated as unjustified escapism from the rigors of fitness-exercising competitive activity.
If music is thought to have originated as escapism, then any claim to its current fitness function seems justifiably doubted. But, if music is not accorded even any current cost-effective fitness function, then all other kinds of ‘down-time’ from the rigors of competition also are cast in doubt, including sleep, relaxation, and even the kinds of love that make society and civilization worthwhile and cost-effective.
In general, this ‘digital’ scientific paradigm reconceives life as more-or-less the slave to life’s own rational servants, thereby increasingly producing a caste system of haves and have-nots of scientific wonder and inspiration, and, in turn, making the institutions of science increasingly impotent as a means of maintaining, much less advancing, humanity.
This digitally ‘rational’ mutation of science also teaches as if the pleasures of constructive activity are added by ‘Mother Evolution’ after-the-fact so as to induce/trick us into engaging in such activity; As if such activity most essentially is unpleasant or non-attractive, so that not even autonomic reaction is allowed to fill the gap between a Skinnerian reduction of the theory of evolutionary origins and the very present sense that oneself has genuinely meaningful personal motives. In short, this ‘digital’ mutation of good science is the favoring of the cart-and-horse analogy of life over the galaxy analogy of life; a favoring of the linear dead-end of a narrow, defensive rationalism, instead of the instinctive cyclicality of a living, breathing creature and its connections to fellow creatures, including to its progeny and ancestors, and to the wider world and the cosmos.
Moreover, this gap is filled in some science fiction by the ‘ideal’ that the two persons in a Vulcan couple do not need each other in any personal sense: that they cooperate only for the service of a purpose so external to them as to be a mere abstraction as far as their own well-being is concerned: ‘survival of the species.’
In Edenic legend, Adam was formed from the dust of the ground. In modern scientific parlance, he literally is composed of stardust. The legend may seem fanciful, so is granted little scientific weight in secular thinking. But, the modern scientific parlance puts even many secular thinkers ill-at-ease: They feel their wonder threatened with extinction; Some even find scientific facts wonder-crushing.
But, what explains this sense that ‘science’ is a threat to wonder? Richard Feynman seems not to have been the least curious of its explanation: he said ‘science doesn’t take wonder out of life, science adds wonder to life.’ I’m sure Feynman represented himself in so saying.
But, unlike what it seems Feynman assumed, people aren’t always affected by things the way we think they are, or ought to be. In fact, given the sheer and subtle variation of humans, and given that the current state of the world involves disharmony, haste, and habitual greed, this ‘unexpected effect’ is as much the rule as the exception. For all I don’t know, even some or all of this article may set badly with some people, so that my efforts to communicate by way of it have some of the very effects that I wish never to be. In fact, the ‘truth’ in saying A hearty slap on the back is encouraging very much depends, for example, on whether the slap-ee has a ‘third-degree’ sunburn. I just hope anyone who has such a ‘sunburn’, psychologically speaking, can feel free not to read anything of this article that may cause him or her any pain. So, likewise, the ‘truth’ in saying ‘science adds wonder to life’ is not the sort of truth which, like a tree, is an object we all can simply see for what it is.
The power of science to induce wonder is not like the function of a tree at all; it’s a function of how that tree is treated, in its need not to be mishandled. And, all trees are not necessarily full-grown or disease-free—nor, even, necessarily free of some ‘rationalist mudhead’s’ version of a cozy planter box. Wonder is a function of dynamic autonomy, of freedom; It is not a function of ‘scientific fact’. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing: The entirety of science is an outgrowth of people’s capacity to wonder, not the cause of that capacity.
So, ‘science’ must the servant, not the master, of the joy and meaning of life—and Feynman’s life was not everyone’s life. The ‘scientist’ who thinks, Anyone who finds science wonder-crushing don’t know science is conveniently conflating other’s lives in cramped planter boxes with his own open life in the forest, and this in favor of his own open life in that forest. Feynman could as well have said that those who don’t like all of the foods that he likes don’t know from food. It’s as if he insisted that the following ‘approximation’ on a classic saying is close enough to be effective.
Whatever kills me makes me stronger.
But, the correct classic saying is ambiguous: Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. The fact is, so many things already kill us, little by little, and the one thing many need is not to have cumulatively fatal trials imposed on them. They need the liberty to take on, or not, any trials they choose. It’s one thing to voluntarily merely visit a concentration camp, and another to unexpectedly have one’s good life suddenly shattered by being condemned indefinitely to such a camp. To believe that science, as a function of indifferently ‘objective’ facts, can’t possibly take wonder from anyone’s life is like believing that we do not, in general, die by an accumulation of errors of microbiological function. Both beliefs are perfectly superstitious, even though they don’t involve any of the fancifully elaborate forces of the ‘primitive’ kind of superstition.
So, at its worst, science is the ‘digital’ enterprise of using ‘facts’ to crush the ignorant wonder of those we look down on. But, too much even of an intentionally humane scientific effort easily deflates others’ sense of wonder. In fact, current evolutionary psychology and biology are often applied by the most dichotomously stupid of paradigms. For example, the appendix, the tonsils, and ‘junk’ DNA all once were presumed to be vestiges of some long-since obsolescence, if that much. Any potential problem with the appendix was framed strictly within an utter ignorance of its current function, allowing the presumption that it currently had none. Many of the destructive consequences of this ‘digital’ scientific paradigm are well known today. But, recently, a more ‘abstract’ part of human reality has come under its ‘digital’ scrutiny: music.
A prime example of the ‘digital’ scrutiny of music is Steven Pinker’s theory that music is ‘auditory cheesecake’. One may suppose this metaphor means, at the very least, that music is an impractical ‘fatty sweetness’ extracted from the musicality of ordinary, rational speech. But, such a supposition suggests that the purely monotonous voice of ‘Computer’ in the original Star Trek series is the purely practical, ‘rational’ voice. The actual output of mono-tonic speech may well require less total energy than is required for normal, ‘musical’ speech. But, since when is a living human a matter primarily of absolute, indifferent stasis? Further, though a wild-eyed rock star may look irrational, does the Bach Concertos ‘look’ like a wild-eyed rock star? And, for that matter, is an impassioned plea for freedom from a stifling ‘rationality’ irrational? In fact, there are very many things in life that, to someone or other at some point, seemed strictly or mostly impractical or irrational. Of nearly all such things, music is the greatest.
Music, that peculiarly omnipresent of solids, is one of the most profound drivers of science. This is because music is our ethereally living sense of motion-in-space—quite literally, auditory architecture. This even is how music evokes the inert version of architecture we love to see. Though a tree may be graceful from leaves and crown downwards, there is every architectural evocation in the fact that some of the most famous and beautiful of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses are set in the cathedrals of tall forest.
But, some find it odd that, of all Earth’s life forms, only humans engage in the production of that auditory architecture, and only humans seem particularly moved by its sound. But, it is odd that anyone should find it so, because humans also are the only creatures that engage in science. And, like science and civilization, music is a cumulative and inter-connective enterprise. One even might say music is the original of the three.
But, music is so deeply and constantly appealing that its practical purpose is the most hidden from a partially-informed ‘rational’ view: there are just so many layers of celebration spent on it. So, music is the one thing for which the most number of ‘rational’ people fail readily to reconstruct, or reverse engineer, its rational nature. Some, like Pinker, seem even to theorize that music has none, or, at least, none worth the resources typically spent on it.
There is one other thing besides music that has so many layers of celebration: sexuality. To a child who believes babies come from the hospital, markedly sexual activity easily can seem not to have a practical purpose. This especially may be the view of a child who also lacks the perceptive intuitions sufficient to realize that such sexual activity is what produces children. Of course, the closer that that child grows to becoming a congruently normal adult, the more easily he or she instinctively reconceives sexuality in a far more holistic and multi-layered manner: it not only is a prime mover to the reproduction of humans, but is as much as the prime instantiation of society. It certainly is the core of any society which, by continued mortality, requires reproduction as maintenance. A fraction of adults realize even that sexuality is key to the maintenance of that disharmony-moderating social construct we call civilization. But, what rarely is suspected is that sexually, by being key to the maintenance of civilization, also is key to the continued vibrancy of science. You see, male and female are not equal-but-redundant; they’re equal-but-dynamically different. And, only one of them is the ‘Better Half’. Music, likewise, is the better half to language.
The reason sexuality rarely is suspected of being key to the vibrancy of science has to do with the fact that science, as an ‘objective’ enterprise, is concerned directly-and-consciously with discovery, and only indirectly with the conscious application of those discoveries to the original point of scientific effort: life. In other words, despite that fitness is a function of life and not the other way, it is the concern for fitness that easily drives science to reconceive itself as the master of life rather than its servant—hence, the routine removal of perfectly good tonsils. But, it is only by a society involving so much of certain kinds of bad living that the tonsils ever seem to be the bad guy. One can as well rationalize never getting out of bed.
If music is nothing less than the most profoundly pleasurable of general fitness functions for humans, then the theory that music is an ultimately trivial pleasure is like having so lost your car keys that you spend half an hour failing to realize they’ve been in your hand the whole time.
If, as Pinker seems to have thought it, music is so much condensed sweet fluff, then music is alien to the rational. But, as suggested by someone in episode 1 Season 3 of the TV series, Bones, music must be part of that most rational of things which ‘deflects us from an irrational admiration of the rational’. So, if music is deeply rational, then the destructive consequences of a mutant-ly rational view of music is far more profound than that resulting from the loss of a front-line defense organ like the tonsils: the undercutting of intelligence itself, and thus, of science as an inspired human enterprise.
Some find it assaulting, even wonder-crushing, to be informed that we are made of stardust: ‘Adam was made from the dust of the ground; Big deal.’ What explains this sense of assault? Richard Feynman seems not to have been the least curious of its explanation when he said that ‘science doesn’t take the wonder out of life, science adds wonder to life.’ I’m sure Feynman represented himself in so saying.
But, unlike that of which Feynman seems only to have been aware, people aren’t always affected by things the way we think they are, or ought to be. In fact, given the sheer and subtle variation in humans, this ‘unexpected effect’ is as much the rule as the exception. The ‘truth’ in saying ‘a hearty slap on the back is encouraging’ very much depends, for example, on whether the slap-ee has a ‘third-degree’ sunburn. Likewise, the ‘truth’ in saying ‘science adds wonder to life’ is not the sort of truth which, like a tree, is an object we all can simply see for what it is. The power of science to induce wonder is not like the function of a tree, but, rather, like how we treat that tree. And, some trees are, as yet, seedlings.
So, science either is adventure or lobotomy, depending on what we manage to bring to it. And, what we manage to bring to it depends on how able we are to maintain our sense of wonder and joy about any it in spite of, or because of, how we are treated in relation to it. Specifically, it depends on how we are treated in relation to some of its ‘rational’ data, and to the theories constructed to make some kind of sense of that data.
But, even then, the fact that a particular theory is an instance of making sense of some data doesn’t mean that that theory makes the best, or even right, sense of that data. At least a tree tends to leave you alone when you want to be, or to not press you to sit ‘rationally’ with hands folded for hours when you are full of life. The reason science so easily gets a bad rap is largely because education in scientifically advanced nations so easily is turned into a ‘rational collective’ of averaged norms across genders and other kinds of differences. In fact, the worst scientist is one who, like Feynman seems to have been, assumes others are exactly like himself in all critical perceptual, conceptual, and otherwise constructive, ways, so that when they feel contrary to his expectations, he assumes he has no basic part in causing it.
What we bring to science is deeply related to what we to bring to music: Whether to music as such, or to particular kinds or pieces of music, we bring to it—or not—the magic already in us. This magic can be so dormant that we are unaware of it until some music plays, or so active that we seek music like a person dying of thirst. It is music alone, not ‘science’ or ‘math’, which has a magical and virtually universal hold on us.
And, this magical hold which music has on us has inspired many of us to seek to discover just what kinds of magic music itself is. This is the most obvious way music drives science.
But, there is a much less obvious, far more holistic, and infinitely more profound way that music drives science. That way is by the magic which is music itself. A very small part of that magic is suggested in something Jack Black sang in School of Rock:
’Baby, we was makin’ straight A’s. But we were stuck in the dumb days. Don’t take much to memorize your line; I feel like I been hypnoticized. And, then, that magic man, he come to town; Whooee! He done spun my head around; He said “Recess is in session, two and two make five”, And now, baby, well, I’m alive!’
’Baby, we was makin’ straight A’s. But we were stuck in the dumb days. Don’t take much to memorize your line; I feel like I been hypnoticized. And, then, that magic man, he come to town; Whooee! He done spun my head around; He said “Recess is in session, two and two make five”, And now, baby, well, I’m alive!’
Get that: ‘Two and two make five.’ The particular inter-dynamic nature of decibels means that when one instrument produces, say, four decibels, while another produces five, the total decibels between the two instruments is not the nine decibels suggested by pure mathematics, but is, in fact, five decibels.
Albert Einstein said pure ‘mathematics can’t tell you anything about the world’. In other words, the ‘rational logic’ of mere math is far too feeble, too ‘monotonous’, too ‘digital’, to serve as complete analogue for the real world. What you need is real analogue. In fact, as far as that analogue is concerned, what you most need, in the end, is music.
We normally think of language and music as two very different things. This is partly because we sense them as having quite different purposes. Consider, especially, the written form of language you are now reading: is it visual art? Or, instead, is it something at once more subtle and forcefully stark? Art is allowed to be either stark or finely complex; But, written language, to be both effective and efficient, must consist of a very limited range and sequence of functional patterns. Of course, written language, just like speech, may be artfully embellished in form, in medium, or in both, but is not required to be to convey at least a minimum of the basic ideas of the author/speaker. Unfortunately, some people feel the differences between language and music so acutely in favor of one and against the other that they conceive music and language as strictly different from, even alien to, each other.
To truly understand the connection between music and language, one must understand also certain things about the connection between hearing and sight. Sight is based on the ‘aggressive’, universal, and ‘indifferently non-solid’ medium of light. Hearing is based on the gentle, local, and ‘personally solid’ medium of sound. It is no random fact that when these two mediums are combined dynamically, they produce a mutually mediating realm one kind of which is commonly called ‘atmosphere’. So, this mediation is related to why the planet Venus is typed as feminine and Mars as masculine: Venus has the soft appearance produced by atmosphere, and Mars has not. But, what ‘appears’ is not always what ‘is’: in terms of being hospitable to life, Venus is no more ‘soft’ than Mars is ‘hard’. In short, Mars and Venus are too digitally exclusive against each other. I deeply hint at this ‘digital’ exclusivity in section 5: A Little Light of Love, and expand on it in section 6: The Analogue Planet.
But, as much as hearing seems as acute as sight, hearing is only analogous to sight, not equal to it in the resources normally necessary to devote to it. Sight normally is the more dedicated sense in terms of neurological resources. But, hearing, and its cousins touch, pressure, taste, etc., is the more complete, more well-rounded, more physical, less intellectual, and gentler, sense.
This inequality of investment is why, in a person who both hears and sees, when either sight or hearing are deprived for long enough, the sense of loss is unequal. When sight is lost, the parts of the brain dedicated to sight do not simply atrophy, much less find nothing to do; They begin to re-adapt to hearing, making the world of sounds begin to seem to take on what best may be described as ‘lucidity’. But, when a sighted person loses virtually all hearing, a profound sense of ‘blindness’ results, typically remaining less compensated for than that from loss of sight. So much of sight gets its cues from sound, but not so much the other way. You can’t even know to turn your head twenty degrees to see what it is your hearing-self would already hear; but, without sight, all your other senses actually increase in their ability to detect the objects around you. All of this means that, even though sight commands more neurological resources for being the more convenient means of determining the surrounding world, hearing is such a companion to sight that when hearing is lost, nothing really can take its place.
In fact, hearing is the prime mediator between sight and all the other primal ‘contact’ senses (touch, pressure, kinesthesis, temperature, smell, taste, etc.). Sight is the most advanced, and most specialized sense. Music is the most organism-centric, holistic sense of touch; hence the lullaby as a maternal specialty.
So, hearing and sight are not matched one-to-one in all their respectives. Rather, they are ‘alike’ only in their common, or overlapping, redundancy—and that’s only the purely mathematical version of their connection. In fact, that’s what analogy is; Partial overlap, often between powerfully very different things. Otherwise, no one could ever even partly misunderstand one thing by how it compares—or seems to compare—to another. Such as, music versus language as fitness functions. No two different things are entirely alike. If they were, we could never tell between them, and what’s the point of that? They would be un-gloriously redundant, making one or the other principally expendable. Imagine you had two utterly identical sets of mutually independent visual systems: in general terms, and if circumstances and efficiency required, you could get rid of one of them. Either one of them. Musical sense is not a uselessly complete redundancy, but exactly the opposite: a primary means by which the world is most deeply understood, and this by the connective nature of overlapping redundancy.
But, just because music is so much more and directly and simply emotional, this doesn’t mean music has no fitness function, far from it: emotion is not something tacked onto fitness, otherwise emotion is alien to the rational. While some love to conceive of emotion as Mom Nature’s way of getting us ‘otherwise senseless creatures’ to do the right things for our survival, and to do these things with gusto and determination, such a ‘love’ is a telling projection of which of ‘rationality’ and ‘emotion’ is more the servant to which. It’s as if Mom Nature is some deity who gives a hoot about whether those who love life wish to live it. I go further into that in section 3 Purpose Misdrawn.
Now, language is a peculiarly human way with sounds. It is a ‘convention’ for drawing the human hearer strictly to subtle but important distinctions of whatever topic, by the production of various sounds-in-contrast. A key part of this contrast is the careful placement of melody and harmony within a larger background of monotony. All this is quite unlike how non-human animals vocalize, which involves few contrasts, fewer melodies, and virtually no harmonies. So, what we humans do when we want our audience to think carefully about what we are saying, we speak in generally more monotonous, lower tones; When we want our audience deeply ‘moved’ by the distinctions we think they’ve already made, we put more music—more melody and harmony—in our voice. An often derogatory term for one kind of this ‘moving’ speech is ‘preaching to the choir’. But, music is itself just such a ‘preaching’, only with none of the ‘preachiness’.
The connections between language and music are profound. As I pointed out in more than one way earlier, language, compared to music, is the more ‘masculine’, aggressively autonomous. But, since music is holistic, collective, ‘feminine’, that’s why music so easily brings people together in ways that transcend philosophical differences. 1 That’s also why putting a lot of musicality to your speech has a ‘solidifying’ effect on the ideas on which you speak, and on the psychology of your audience in relation to those ideas. Language is the prime tool for expressing and inspiring informed choice, and, along with its written form, is central to conveying scientific findings. But, it is music which has the most special and powerful place in science, as you shall increasingly see.
The Vulcan God
The whole point of the dispassionately rational is to serve the passionate rationale of life itself. Ironically, it was this service to the passion of life that the ancestors of the fictional Vulcans suppressed, and finally lost, their passions. At least, they lost them for all but the most important of occasions: selection of a mate. They took on, and imposed, the sense of duty to suppress and stifle even all constructive ‘emotions’ in order to guarantee that the impassioned conflicts marking their past did not ultimately annihilate their race. Of course, even the Vulcans admitted that every individual in this non-Edenic existence eventually dies. But, presumably, each individual ancestor of the ‘logical’ Vulcans was so passionate about the continuance of the race as to feel forced to the conclusion that long and prosperous lives of mild emotions were better than the chance that lives of deep passion would be pre-emptively short. So, the Vulcans inherited the sense that their ‘best friend’ was the mild pleasures of a dispassionately ‘rational’, existence. Thus, they felt a moral offense at any of their members who expressed constructive passions, believing these passions unjustifiably dangerous. ‘Don’t get out of bed, you could get run over, or you could run somebody over.’
But, there is something much more unhealthy about the logic of self-salvation through dispassionate ‘rationality’ than staying in bed to avoid accidents. That logic necessarily includes the impossible notion that science itself always is the most effective for life by being at once the most competitive against skeptics and scientists alike and the most indifferent-and-callus to the personal needs of the individual. Such a ‘logic’ is, essentially, a forced marriage between the ‘rational’ collectivism of Karl Marx and the ‘intuitively’ absolutist anti-collectivism of Ayn Rand.
If the philosophy of either Marx or Rand is the right one, or even if their respective, mutually antagonistic philosophies achieve best expression in a forced marriage, then what does this make of music in face of the fact that speech is the universally preferred means of general communication among humans? What it makes is the philosophical bedrock on which Steven Pinker built his theory that music is a more-or-less trivial confection.
If music is mere confection, then what of the fact that music, compared to speech, can the far better communicate the wonder of science Feynman talked about? Where, in the world, is there place for such harmony between science and the individual? ‘General’ language may the more effectively and economically cause your friend to know that you saw a bird fly over the river this morning. But, if flight is, or ought to be, a wonder to us, then is music really just fluff?
The Vulcan dutifully has no room for the ‘passions’ of music, yet will allow for the more ‘mild’ musics to tickle the intelligence. Where does the Vulcan draw the line here between ‘dangerously impassioned’ and ‘rationally stimulative’? How much magic, really, is too much to bring to music—or, to science?
Feynman was no Vulcan. But, even Feynman, in saying that ‘science does not take the wonder out of life’, seems to have confused one kind of magic for another; of being at least as superstitious as those who hate science as wonder-crushing abomination. It’s bad enough for some of those sensitive persons that Feynman said science ‘is’ so wonderful. It’s worse that Feynman himself seems to have been unaware of an entire realm of the very magic he felt. Because, if music is not, in fact, so much trivial fluff, then those who make much ‘logic’ to prove that it is are doing many of those sensitive person’s a very great disservice. It’s possible to so seal a fire behind the glass of ‘rationality’ that its warmth is never felt from outside. Worse, some forms of science, though joyously rigorous within certain bounds, can be perfectly abominable, by burning ‘rational’ line which no fire of wonder can cross. Some such fire lines are more like entire countries.
Music is the language of analogue: of connections between things. Combined with the ‘magic’ of decibels, this makes music the universal constant which compounds the hearer’s intelligence. This makes music—not ‘language’—central to the science Feynman mentioned.
This gets to the bottom of the history of science as an inspired-and-inspiring endeavor. The view of an ‘objectively impersonal’ stance on science, perhaps especially in archaeology, presupposes that the history of human civilization(s) is made up more-or-less of trivia upon which humans cumulatively have constructed ever more meaningful things. If we imagine jokes serve some constructive cognitive purpose, then does it make sense to re-conceive jokes as being reduce-able to some generic sense of humor, such that it then makes sense to imagine that the advent of the joke involved no actual content?
The prehistoric Og, inventor of the joke as such, didn’t believe in giving up his purist stance by adding subject matter like his copycats did. His joke was the truly basic model, and everyone loved it until his copycats began adding this fluff of subject. In the end, Og died penniless because, despite his pleas to one and all, the Patent officers just didn’t get it. And, what grieved him most was that the Patent officers were as self-made as he was, by having invented the Patent, as such, and right away patenting it.