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ColoradoGuy
07-19-2007, 08:53 PM
Oliver Sacks is at it again, with a typically fascinating essay (taken from his upcoming book) in this week's New Yorker about the relationships of music and language. You can't read the essay online, but you can listen to a ten minute podcast interview with him about it here (http://www.newyorker.com/online/2007/07/23/070723on_audio_sacks). He is responding to Steven Pinker's well-known description of music as "auditory cheesecake," (http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/09/03/survival_of_the_harmonious)something which we could easily do without. To Sacks, "music and mimesis are as essential to humans as language."

Sacks uses his standard approach of presenting bizarre examples from his neurology practice to provide insight into how the brain works. In the New Yorker article, he described patients who, following unusual injuries (one guy was hit by lightening), develop compulsions to hear music constantly--they adapt music to become their language. Sacks describes Pinker's view of "music being merely piggy-backed on language" as backwards; rather, "language is piggy-backed on music."

The podcast is well worth a listen.

pconsidine
07-19-2007, 10:04 PM
Y'know, I have always been incredibly suspicious of people who express no preference for any kind of music. Even if he's only right in principle, I wonder if that's what could be behind that feeling.

ColoradoGuy
07-19-2007, 11:08 PM
Freud was notoriously indifferent to music. Hmm . . . .

robeiae
07-20-2007, 01:36 AM
What's "music"?

pconsidine
07-20-2007, 01:54 AM
*takes a healthy step away from Rob*

Higgins
08-05-2007, 12:52 AM
Freud was notoriously indifferent to music. Hmm . . . .

It's odd how many references to songs and such there are in his work.
Perhaps he preferred music with lyrics?

ColoradoGuy
08-05-2007, 02:25 AM
It's odd how many references to songs and such there are in his work.
Perhaps he preferred music with lyrics?
I don't know--I'm just going by what Sacks says. I've always found him to be a reliable source on other things.

Higgins
08-05-2007, 04:52 PM
I don't know--I'm just going by what Sacks says. I've always found him to be a reliable source on other things.

Well...I'm pretty sure that Sacks is right about music being in some way more neurologically primal than language...

But the continual need everyone seems to have to attack Freud in passing about everything in the universe...

gets me down.

yesandno
08-29-2007, 04:38 AM
Music IS language--it's just different than the one in which we usually communicate.

ColoradoGuy
08-30-2007, 02:42 AM
Music IS language--it's just different than the one in which we usually communicate.

You may be correct, but have you got any data to support your assertion?

pconsidine
08-30-2007, 02:52 AM
Well, there are certain grammatical structures to various genres of music, and there is a clearly-defined emotional vernacular connected with the different sections of an orchestra, but I couldn't really support the idea of music being a language beyond intuition at this point.

Hmmmm....

yesandno
08-30-2007, 03:59 AM
I'm busted. I have no data to back up my statement.

All of my scientific impulses fade when it comes to music. It feels like language, and I respond to it like language, so it must be language. I like thinking that I can express thoughts in music that I can't find the words for in English. I know that when I'm improvising with other people, that we have "conversations."

But this is one of those dramatic disagreement topics. I have friends who insist there is no pre-linguistic thought, and are scornful of my romantic notions. :)

Hey, I did find this via Google Scholar:

Auteur(s) / Author(s)

KOELSCH Stefan ; KASPER Elisabeth ; SAMMLER Daniela ; SCHULZE Katrin ; GUNTER Thomas ; FRIEDERICI Angela D. ; Résumé / Abstract

Semantics is a key feature of language, but whether or not music can activate brain mechanisms related to the processing of semantic meaning is not known. We compared processing of semantic meaning in language and music, investigating the semantic priming effect as indexed by behavioral measures and by the N400 component of the event-related brain potential (ERP) measured by electroencephalography (EEG). Human subjects were presented visually with target words after hearing either a spoken sentence or a musical excerpt. Target words that were semantically unrelated to prime sentences elicited a larger N400 than did target words that were preceded by semantically related sentences. In addition, target words that were preceded by semantically unrelated musical primes showed a similar N400 effect, as compared to target words preceded by related musical primes. The N400 priming effect did not differ between language and music with respect to time course, strength or neural generators. Our results indicate that both music and language can prime the meaning of a word, and that music can, as language, determine physiological indices of semantic processing.Revue / Journal Title

Nature neuroscience (Nat. neurosci.) ISSN 1097-6256

kdnxdr
09-02-2007, 09:08 AM
I take it that, none of you have ever watched the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

kdnxdr
09-02-2007, 06:05 PM
Here is a link to some interesting research regarding music made by the heart:

http://polymer.bu.edu/music/

ColoradoGuy
09-02-2007, 08:20 PM
I take it that, none of you have ever watched the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?
Well yes I have--but is that data?

rugcat
09-02-2007, 09:17 PM
I once had a long discussion with a friend who is a composer and Phd about emotion in music as intrinsic as opposed to culturally based.. For example, minor keys are often associated with sadness and nostalgia, major keys with brightness and purpose.

But is the sadness of a minor key related to brain structure and the effect certain combinations of notes have on the brain, or is it nothing more than a cultural artifact?

He believes certain keys have intrinsic properties. Most classical composers deliberately chose specific keys to express the emotional themes of their works, and most of them agree on which does which. Have you never wondered why a certain symphony was written in G minor, another in D major?

No data or proof here, just an interesting speculation from a superb musical composer and scholar.

ColoradoGuy
09-02-2007, 09:41 PM
I once had a long discussion with a friend who is a composer and Phd about emotion in music as intrinsic as opposed to culturally based.. For example, minor keys are often associated with sadness and nostalgia, major keys with brightness and purpose.

But is the sadness of a minor key related to brain structure and the effect certain combinations of notes have on the brain, or is it nothing more than a cultural artifact?

He believes certain keys have intrinsic properties. Most classical composers deliberately chose specific keys to express the emotional themes of their works, and most of them agree on which does which. Have you never wondered why a certain symphony was written in G minor, another in D major?

No data or proof here, just an interesting speculation from a superb musical composer and scholar.
I think there's a large component of cultural artifact. I'm no musicologist, but some cultures seem to me to have a fair amount of their folk music in minor keys. Are gypsies intrinsically sad? The bright, happy keys of, say C major and G major are attitudes of Western European music, I think. If anybody's got a link about this I'd love to read it.

Medievalist
09-02-2007, 10:42 PM
This sounds very like the beliefs of the Greeks about modes -- keep in mind we don't really know what the modes were, though there are lots and lots of educated (and other) guesses. Some links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode

http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/greek.music.html

yesandno
09-02-2007, 10:46 PM
I did once read an article in Scientific American (I think...or else it was American Scientist) about how certain harmonies are received by our brains more readily (brain scans show this. sorry, I forget exactly how). We naturally like fifths, for instance. The brain actually has to change in order to like other harmonic connections.

I'll see if I can find this article somehow online. It was really interesting.

kdnxdr
09-03-2007, 04:39 AM
Well yes I have--but is that data?


No............however, I was just goofin' wit cha.............

rugcat
09-03-2007, 04:47 AM
This sounds very like the beliefs of the Greeks about modes -- keep in mind we don't really know what the modes were, though there are lots and lots of educated (and other) guesses. Some links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_mode

http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/greek.music.htmlI'm a jazz player and I use different modes all the time. I find a distinct emotional tone to each one -- but I still can't say if it's a learned emotional response or an intrinsic quality.

ColoradoGuy
10-09-2007, 08:22 PM
Good review of Sacks's book is up today in Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2175460/nav/tap3/)

benbradley
10-09-2007, 09:51 PM
I did once read an article in Scientific American (I think...or else it was American Scientist) about how certain harmonies are received by our brains more readily (brain scans show this. sorry, I forget exactly how). We naturally like fifths, for instance. The brain actually has to change in order to like other harmonic connections.

I'll see if I can find this article somehow online. It was really interesting.
As you may know, the original researcher into this was a guy named Pythagoras. who is perhaps most famous for his theorem on right triangles. He discovered the mathematical relationships between musical octaves, fifths and such.

Skipping on ahead (over centuries of various tunings, of Equal Temperament taking over Western tunings,...), I got Wendy Carlos' CD "Beauty In The Beast" when it came out 20 years ago. The whole CD features music in a different equitonal tuning, i think 17 tones per octave. Not all these tones are played, just the ones that correspond (somewhat) to the 8-tone major or minor musical scale of the key each piece is in. But my first several hearings of it were a bit jarring, beucause it sounded out of tune. But something 'clicked' in later listenenings, and it sounds 'right,' it's just a little bit different from other music.

And on "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" which I was thinking is perhaps not the best example of this type of thing (well, it's fiction, for one thing...).

I was in college when "Close Encounters" came out. I hadn't seen the movie, but someone's popularizarion of the theme song was all over the radio. The basic theme is just five notes - in the key of C it is D, E, C, C an octave lower, then the G inbetween the two C's (ISTR it was acutally in the key of D). Even now, I'm sure anyone who heard those would recognize it as the movie theme.

So I was in my dorm room playing around on the guitar - there was a friend in the room who had just come back from seeing the movie - and I thought why not?
So I played those five notes. He went "WHOA!" and freaked out for a few seconds. It was great. Others who had seen the movie came by, and he told about me playing the theme, and he said he thought the aliens were landing to come get us all. That was fun, and it had all the effect I'd hoped for!

Bartholomew
10-20-2007, 01:54 AM
You may be correct, but have you got any data to support your assertion?

Yes. I can communicate ideas in music. I can switch from a major key to a minor key and control the sort of emotion I convey. I can Slur through a phrase, or enunciate every single note.

Music cannot, in its current form, be used to express a simple idea. I cannot say "The rose is black," in music.

But it can be used to express more abstract ideas. The sort of ideas people have trouble putting words to.

But that just makes music a form of expression, right? Didn't I say it was a language?

And it is. I can conceive a musical ideal, write it down, and have another musician read it. I can find grammatical errors in sheet music--do the barred notes go with or against the pulse of the song? Are there too few notes to complete the measure? That's a really ugly spot for a minor second. The sharps and flats are out of order. Etc.

Not only is music a language, but it is one that is a hundred times more complicated than English.

sharpierae
11-25-2007, 03:40 PM
Hey, does anyone here listen to RadioLab? It's a great show on New York public radio that Oliver Sacks appears on from time to time.

Here's their show on Musical Language, it explores some of the ideas raised in this thread. Give it a listen when you have a moment, it's great:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2006/04/21

(Oliver Sacks was on the episode called Memory and Forgetting relating the story of Clive, the patient he writes about in Musicophilia and that article in the New Yorker)

enjoy
xxxrae