inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #26 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Sat 18 Oct 08 12:35
    
Gödel, Escher, Bach:  - Douglas Hofstadter  attempted to look at some
of these perceptions
but for me it failed because he was not a professional musician

music is also an athletic and competitive profession for the performer
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #27 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sat 18 Oct 08 13:13
    
[26] It is athletic.  That's what Mark Knopfler was trying to convey
with the video for "The Walk of Life."  The professional musicians I
know get a real physical work-out from practicing and performing.

[25] Erv Hafter, who is a leading auditory scientist at UC Berkeley,
calls this "visual chauvinism."  The processing capacity is no greater
nor more complex for vision than it is for audition, but more people
study it.  Part of the  reason is that there is more funding for visual
sciences, and because there are more people doing it, so that becomes
a self-perpetuating, vicious circle.  Also, the technology to
rigorously study sound in the laboratory is much more recent than
equivalent technology for studying vision.  The ability to manipulate
soundfiles both efficiently and parametrically depends on the kind of
digital sound processing that hasn't been around for very long.  I hope
that there will be more attention paid to the auditory sciences. 
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #28 of 103: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sat 18 Oct 08 15:58
    
Yes.

I'm a philosopher, and I can attest to the fact that the history of
epistemology draws on visual examples and evidence very, very heavily, and
not much at all on auditory, kinesthetic, or olfactory ones. (Tactile, a
little bit -- hard to classify that area in a way.)

I remember seeing some research ~15 years ago on olfaction that teased me
with the idea that there could be a major paradigm shift in our
understanding of perception if we switched from visual paradigms/models to
olfactory ones. Dunno quite what became of that line of inquiry.

To which is audition closer, the visual system or the olfactory one? Or does
the question even make sense?

(And there's no question that playing music is a workout. It's both
physically and kinesthetically demanding, while also calling on other stuff
that's just "in your head" for understanding and planning and so on. Shame
that isn't on all the standardized tests the kids have to take, lest some
child be left behind.)
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #29 of 103: Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Sat 18 Oct 08 18:26
    
Just sticking my head in -- I've begun the book, and am wishing
(strongly) that it had a CD with it of all the music you mention. I am
not a musician, can't even read music, and regret it. 

When I was about nine years old, I was dusting, upstairs, with the
radio on. In those days, we had only one station, so it played
everything. 

This most amazing sound came on. The whole experience is still clear
to me fifty years later, the slant of light, dust motes flying...

I was stunned and still for some time -- desperate to know what I was
hearing, not wanting to risk missing a moment of it. Finally, I ran
downstairs (where that radio was, of course, tuned to the same station)
to ask my grandmother -- what is that? Is that a human voice?

It was Piaf.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #30 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sat 18 Oct 08 18:49
    
[29] No CD, but EVERY song mentioned in the book is on the book's web
page, in short snippets, at www.sixsongs.net
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #31 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sat 18 Oct 08 18:52
    
[28] "To which is audition closer, the visual system or the olfactory
one?"

Both vision and olfaction are chemical senses.  Audition is a
mechanical one.  In vision and olfaction (and gustation), when a
sensory stimulus impinges on the appropriate sensory receptor, a
chemical process is begun that delivers information up stream to the
brain.  Audition is different because the ear drum wiggling in and out
starts a mechanical process that leads to electrical output from the
cochlea.  In that sense, it's more like touch, where pressure on
tactile receptors leads to electrical firing. 
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #32 of 103: Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Sat 18 Oct 08 20:03
    
Just started Chapter 3, and I think that the first song would have
been a lullaby. Perhaps you will speak to this later in the book.

& thanks for the link!
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #33 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Sat 18 Oct 08 22:18
    
I'm currently reading a wonderful book about music, "Practicing," by Glenn
Kurtz. In it, he points out that one of the pleasures of music is that in it
one perceives a profound sense of order, and shows how various writers of the
past have equated that order to whatever their interest is: Ptolemy with is
"music of the spheres," Newton saying that music is the mind playing with
mathematics, a philosopher I can't recall equating music with philosophy.
Perhaps this sense of order is not a feature of pop music, but is with much
Western classical music, New Age "space" music, Indian classical music, etc.

How do you see this sense of order fitting in with your evolutionary theory of
music? Does it maybe suggest that music mirrors other brain activity? How
would you explain the difference for Ptolemy, Newton, etc.?
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #34 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sun 19 Oct 08 07:49
    
[33] Yes, music does have a sense of order, a definite syntax, just as
do natural languages.  I have described it as "temporal coherence" and
a "highly structured stimulus evolving over time."  Indeed, I believe
that it is the recognition of this order, and the ways in which
composers manage to violate your expectations while maintaining order,
that gives rise to the deep emotional reactions we have to music.  

To Newton, the first thing I would say is "Dude, you took credit for
things that were first discovered by Hook and by Leibnitz."  Then I
would say that musical structure rests on a number of mathematical
relations, from the creation of scales to low-integer rhythmic ratios,
to the integer-defined overtone series.  To Ptolemy, I'd first show him
how his tuning system (based on perfect ratios, so-called Pythagorean
tuning) leads to an inability to play in all the different keys, and an
inability for musicians playing different instruments to easily play
with one another.  I'd show him the equal-tempered piano, and hope that
he would agree with the last 500 years of musical instrument
development that this compromise we struck with equal temperament has
advantages that outweigh the mathematical perfection of his own system.
 The harmony of the spheres he spoke of we now know to be related to
the periodicity inherent in stellar and planetary orbits, a periodicity
observed in the propogation of sound through sinusoidal decomposition
of complex soundwaves.

How the order fits in with my evolutionary theory of music is this: it
is precisely *because* music is so structured and ordered that it was
favored by natural selection for the encoding and preservation of
meaning.  That structure makes it memorable, and as such, a reliable
means of preservation of information.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #35 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Sun 19 Oct 08 07:53
    
music is a language and has little to do with math

Polyglots are often highly musically gifted
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #36 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sun 19 Oct 08 09:31
    
[35] I might agree that music has little to do with math, but
certainly the opposite is not true: math has a lot to do with music. 
Specifically, most of the ways we understand music require mathematical
description.  The overtone series is one example, and even the
construction of chords, why some sounds are consonant or dissonant. .
.hidden Markov models are a good way of describing the generation of
musical sequences, and Schenkerian analysis is mathematical as well.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #37 of 103: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Sun 19 Oct 08 09:45
    
"hidden Markov models are a good way of describing the generation of
 musical sequences"

OK, I'm intrigued. Is the idea that, for each partial sequence played up to
this moment, there's a probability distribution function defining meaningful
next notes or next sequences? Hmmm.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #38 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sun 19 Oct 08 10:17
    
[37] Yes! That's exactly it.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #39 of 103: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Sun 19 Oct 08 10:52
    
the overtone series defines how your ears perceive music  and
languages

not unlike the golden section
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #40 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Sun 19 Oct 08 11:39
    
The evidence points to Newton derving his description of calculus first, but
Leibniz publishing first.  In fact both men based their work on ideas that had
been around for millenia.  At any rate, Newton is certainly one of the
greatest scientists of all time.  But I'm not sure why you bring this up.

A common way of remembering large amounts of information used to be via a
series of associations--perhaps someone would imagine themselves in a room
with a manageable collection of objects which have some association with the
things to be rememberd, then one of the objects would lead to a new scene with
more objects, etc. Similarly, epic poems, with their regular meter and rhyme
scheme, were easier to remember via a chain of associations. One needed to
typically start at the beginning to make it through--much harder to jump in
the middle somewhere. Anyone who has memorized music knows the same thing is
true there.

Which suggests to me that what's going via memorization in music is perhaps
using the same brain pathways as the visual or language-based methods. Since
people are capable of memorizing long poems without the aid of music--and in
fact it's easier for most people to memorize poetry than instrumental music--
I'm unconvinced that music provided an evolutionary advantage in this regard,
and while setting the ABC song or "Thirty days hath September" to music
certainly makes learning them easier and more pleasant, I'm not sure it's
something unique to music.

But why are we mesmerized by a Bach fugue, or an Indian raga? Why do Tibetan
monks chant?
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #41 of 103: "The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 19 Oct 08 11:45
    
"I'd show him the equal-tempered piano, and hope that he would agree with
 the last 500 years of musical instrument development that this compromise
 we struck with equal temperament has advantages that outweigh the
 mathematical perfection of his own system."

I'm wondering if that may change by way of the ease of applying alternate
temperaments to electronic keyboards may lead to the opening of peoples'
ears to other possibilities.   Instead of spending hours with a hex wrench
and tuning forks, one can press a button and have pythagorean or a dozen
other temperaments in any key, along with the ability to transpose on the
fly.

One of my clients, the great bansuri player, GS Sachdev, has told me that
he plays differently when the context is an orchestral soundtrack than he
does when he plays ragas against the drone.    He has the ability to hear
and respond to the subtle differences.

And I'm reminded of an old friend for the hippie era who returned to the US
after 7 years studying music India, and said that Beethoven sounded a bit
crude to him.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #42 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Sun 19 Oct 08 12:04
    
An orchestra is not constrained by equal temperament in terms of tuning--all
the instruments can bend the pitch somewhat, and indeed they do so depending
on the harmonies--but in the "common practice period" system that we all
know, which chords are available from one to the next rely on A# being the
same note as Bb. Pythagorean tuning may give you purer chords, but the
harmonies available are more restrictive. I guess what I'm saying is that
it's not a technological problem to be solved by electronic keyboards.

Indian music, as far as I know, is not harmonic, but rather a single melody
against a drone. Subtler tunings are possible because a note doesn't have to
have a dual life in two different chords. By the way, it may sound like Indian
music or Turkish music or whatever is much more sophisticated than Western
music by the fact of their dividing the octave into 43 notes or somesuch, but
in fact for any given piece, they pick from among the 43 a number similar to
ours for their scale, rather than using all 43 in one piece.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #43 of 103: Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 19 Oct 08 12:07
    
> people are capable of memorizing long poems without the aid of music

Those long poems aren't exactly free verse. That is, they are in most
respects *songs*, with perhaps the melodic content kept to a minimum
but still present -- don't the rhythms of a poem suggest or even force
a sort of constrained melody?
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #44 of 103: Bryan Higgins (bryan) Sun 19 Oct 08 12:20
    
No, they're not free verse--the regular rhythm and rhyming in fact provide the
memorization aid. But a poem doesn't suggest a melody to me, personally.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #45 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sun 19 Oct 08 12:41
    
[43] I've come to see poetry and songs-with-lyrics as falling along a
continuum.  Poems generally have an internal rhythm and metrical rules.
 Although they lack explicit melody, they usually are recited with
intontation and prosody.  Music and poetry both provide constraints for
the possible words that can fit.  Music tends to be easier to remember
because the additional dimension of melody provides more schematacized
information for the brain to aid in memorization.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #46 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sun 19 Oct 08 12:46
    
[42] "An orchestra is not constrained by equal temperament in terms of
tuning--all the instruments can bend the pitch somewhat"

Not true.  Exceptions: piano, organ, glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba,
chimes, harp, harpsichord, and the low open strings of the bass,
cello, viola, and violin.  As a practical matter, some brass players
(trumpet, cornet, and tuba in particular) can't bend the pitch of notes
at the extreme low and high ends of their range or they end up jumping
the overtone series.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #47 of 103: "The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 19 Oct 08 12:53
    
Melodies aren't a necessity.   Rhythm will suffice.  Rhythm and rhyme are
so useful in memorization that I can't think of any other way something like
the Odyssey or the Iliad could be transmitted in a primarily pre-literate
society.   Each line connects with the prior line in such a way that a
copying error would be instantly noticeable.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #48 of 103: Daniel Levitin (daniellevitin) Sun 19 Oct 08 13:56
    
Melody's aren't a necessity for memorization, but they are an
improvement.  For tens of thousands of years, humans used melody (more
than poetry) to encode knowledge - essential knowledge that had
important survival value, such as which plants are poisonous, and how
to dress a wound. The added constraints of melody aren't necessary, but
they're more efficient.
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #49 of 103: "The Best for Your Health!" (rik) Sun 19 Oct 08 14:15
    
"For tens of thousands of years, humans used melody (more than poetry) to
 encode knowledge...."

We know this for certain?
  
inkwell.vue.338 : Daniel Levitin, The World In Six Songs
permalink #50 of 103: Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 19 Oct 08 14:39
    
It seems like rhythm and rhyme help suggest a melody. I think I was
trying to suggest that most speech has something of a melody -- we
rarely speak in monotone -- and it would surprise me to see that
different people reading a poem aloud with no prior knowledge would all
converge around a very similar speech-melody.

bumbaugh's point about the dominance of visual studies, along with
rik's question, reminds that we have little knowledge of the history or
specifics of music (and dance) before notation, but we still get to
enjoy the cave paintings of Lascaux and elsewhere. I know there have
been musical instruments found in ancient places, but what do we
really know about ancient music?
  

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