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Re: Gestalts under the pretext of Melodic consonance

At 11:03 AM -0700 7/12/00, Pierre Divenyi wrote:
What I would like to add to Alexandra's philosophical/rhetorical
question is that, beyond speech and language, the necessity of
Gestalts strikes with overriding obviousness when thinking of music.
It is clear that the comprehension of a longer piece, e.g., a Mozart
symphony, or even a movement thereof, is entirely dependent upon the
perception, the short-and-long-term memory for, and the internal
organization of shorter elements -- such as themes, motifs, harmonic
progressions and digressions, etc. -- although the whole piece lasts
10 minutes or longer. This "comprehension" is a necessity for both
the listener and the performer and it is especially acute of a
problem for cyclic works, like a Wagner opera or the Liszt b-minor
sonata (which, incidentally, contains most of Wagner's mature
compositions). Because this 30-minutes piece would have no head or
tail without knowing at the very beginning where it is going, or at
the very end what it has been through, both the listener and the
performer is invited to perform some sorts of a transformation that
would telescope the dimension of time into a single point, i.e., a
method to create a spatial Gestalt. Maybe one day we could see
neurophysiological traces of such a spatial Gestalt for auditory
objects because, technological advances of recent years
notwithstanding, I think that in-depth and meaningful analysis of
30-minutes brain activity records is a pie in the sky.

Pierre Divenyi

This will be totally off the wall, but this seems a safe place to
bring it up...

Might a bat perceive a flight room or other familiar space like we
perceive a melodic composition? Here's something that I recently
wrote based on the discussion of Erst- and Wiederorientierung in
Griffin, 1958, Listening in the Dark:

"The Wiederorientierung Phenomena

"There are some data that provide some insight into how bats perceive their
world. These were first reported by Möhres and Öttingen-Spielberg (1949)
using the following terms:
* Erstorientierung-the orienting reaction when bats first encounter a
novel situation.
* Wiederorientierung-how bats behave when they fly in a familiar space.
These phenomena were observed in the behavior of a bat that was accustomed
to roosting in a cage in a room. When the cage door was opened, it flew
around the room for a short time and then returned to its perch. While the
bat was flying, the researchers rotated the cage or removed it, and noted
that the bat continued to behave as if the cage were in its normal
position. This suggested that bats use and maintain a world model that is
only modified to match reality if circumstances force it to reorient.

"Rawson and Griffin investigated this further (Griffin, 1958, 1988), asking
whether bats even needed to make their cries at all. This experiment
involved placing and moving obstacles in a flight room. They found that
the bat still cried, but seemed to ignore the echo returns, habituating to
the original environment to a degree that large scale changes were
required to trigger the orienting reaction.

"The implication of this work was that bats seemed to have an internal
world model-a predictive planning process-that was updated based on
sensory data only when significant novelty was detected. There appears to
be a match/mismatch process (Pribram, 1971) than filters the large amount
of data that the bat's echolocation cries generate down to unexpected
events that are likely to matter to the bat. A similar pattern of
habituation to the environment is seen in most vertebrates; bats only take
it further."

My point is that bats seem to memorize the sound experience of flying
in familiar space. I'll leave it to others to speculate.

Harry Erwin, PhD, Computational Neuroscientist (modeling bat
behavior), Senior SW Analyst and Security Engineer, and Adjunct
Professor of Computer Science, GMU. CV available at: