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Re: They sometimes behave so strangely
As you've implied, the mystery is not so much that repetitions evince the perception of musicality, but rather that 'normally', we don't hear music.
I've often wondered on this in respect of environmental sounds - why do we not hear a "musical world"? - , do we suppress musicality? - just a few days ago I was in Marrakech (I know, showing off!) and did indeed hear the city as exceedingly musical - the car horns, calls-to-prayer and various other city sounds really did, at times, make a musical soundscape. The experience was unusual enough to make me reflect that one cannot simply 'choose' to hear environments this way - there have to be enough primitive elements for musical perception to grab hold of. What are they, what is 'enough'?
>>> Ole Kühl <kyhl@xxxxxxx> 19/12/2006 18:05 >>>
It has been very intriguing to follow the discussion triggered by the
'strange behavior' of Diana's vocalization. To my mind, this beautiful
example points to a very important problem that we should consider
The implicit question is, of course, how can we explain this phenomenon,
which seems to be fairly consistent across a vast population. Shall we
discard it as purely phenomenological? Most of us would hesitate to do so.
There seems to be a switch between two perceptual modes in our cognition, a
music mode and a language mode, prompting us to ask: How can we explain this
switch? and What triggers it? Is it a purely cultural phenomenon, as some
writers have suggested, or does it rest on biological properties as well? We
see how this simple demonstration raises a host of questions that are very
difficult to answer, and it is therefore tempting to ignore them.
Our inability to explain the mode-switch phenomenon may have to do with the
way we conceive of the fundamental categories language and music (which may
not be so far apart, as we have seen a number of examples of these last
days). Seen in this perspective, Diana's 'illusion' becomes a demonstration
of the instability of our basic categories. Not only do they have 'fuzzy
boundaries', but their very definition is human and cultural, thus subject
to change and interpretation. The categories language and music are not
predestined and given by nature, they are part of the semiotic web in which
we perform our investigations. We should therefore not be surprised by the
fact that it is possible to manipulate a demonstration in such a way that
the category boundary becomes blurred.
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