- --- In ptrad@..., "Debashis Sinha" <deb@d...> wrote:
> > i will summarize pinker's views if there is interest.merrier.
> i would love to hear what that reference says. the more the
fools rush in where angels fear to tread. (i'm no angel
i will attempt to summarize a whole book, which in turn
is a summary of important new findings in evolutionary
psychology mostly initiated by toobey and cosminides. gee
thats not much.
but it is necessary context for anyone who is
philosophizing in modern times.
one principle to keep in mind is there are ultimate goals
and more immediate goals pursued by organisms (including
another is from matt ridley who used the analogy for
science and morality. science and morality are like two
different card games played with the same deck. even though
both have the same 52 cards, the rules they play by and
the outcomes are decidedly different.
ultimate goal for all organisms: produce more of the same
genes they are made of. (dawkins selfish gene)
what this means in terms of the blank slate is: there
is no behavior people engage in that is not partly
genetically determined. example language: although the
language you will speak is determined by your environment
- all languages share a deep structure (chomsky) and the
stages that children go through to learn language are not
there are many more examples and numerous book length
presentations of the large body of science behind these
ideas. i'll move on.
what does this mean for music and the arts? babies
recognize and are drawn to consonant intervals from the age
of a few months. this is bad news for stockhausen, harry
partch and the whole serial twelve tone thing. melodies
are also a very early attractor.
music and the arts seem to be an evolutionary adaptation
around the core message "my senses are working right and
are not easily deceived". this promotes the ultimate
organism's goal of being well adapted and surviving.
a more proximate goal is the long list of aesthetic
pleasures, intellectual interest in the arts etc. and
attracting members of the opposite sex, but mostly males
attracting females. sorry about that, but it is quite
factual. look at the distribution of the sexes in the
membership of this group for example.
so if consonant intervals are attractive, what is
going on with "stockhausen, harry partch and the whole
serial twelve tone thing"? there is also an important
evolutionary adaptation to desire status within one's
peer group and ever larger subcultures. thus it is an
adaptation to say "my senses are so refined that i can
listen to and enjoy stuff that makes every one else gag",
and proves my superiority... (tom wolfe, From Bauhaus to
back to the cards/deck analogy: although one can play
another game with the deck of aesthetic pleasures, i submit
that the deck itself does impose limits and guidelines on
what is a best practice for making music. one does not have
to stay within the consonant/rhythmic constraints imposed
by neurology, but an awareness of them gives likely limits
as to what is neurologically pleasing as opposed to a more
status seeking aesthetic response.
so my caution for a post-traditional aesthetic is:
traditions have existed for some length of time and
over some (sometimes quite large) population. thus they
are likely to match with what neurologically is the deep
structures for music (and the other arts, too). when ptrad
claims to depart from tradition i submit that a knowledge
of what these deep structructures are, can be helpful
in making what is a neurologically sound as opposed to a
what are the deep structures? it is probably not a
mystery. here's a quick list of suggestions.
all musical cultures have consonant and dissonant
intervals and favor melodies that employ more consonant
than dissonant ones. melodies are close to universal in
resolving to the tonic. melodies do not last for less
than 1 second or more than 60 seconds. western harmony is
a dominant factor all over the world. rhythms of speeds
less than 40 or greater than 200 beats per minute are not
favored. rhythmns in 4 are found everywhere. non melodic
series of notes have a tension and release cycle similar
one other proximate goal for organisms is pursuit of
novelty for the senses. thus while we as musicians are
constrained by the deep structures (neurologically based
and not changable by one's conscious will) we also have
the duty to produce novelty in our productions. how
much? traditions give a bound.
this note covered a lot of territory, so write me back with
things that are not clear or seem nonsensical. i can reply
with quotes from pinker and ridley (and their sources)
and expand on any topics that seem of interest.
this is new stuff to everyone - the research is still
ongoing. y'all seem like a thoughtful bunch, so if y'all
can see an error in this line of reasoning (other than
the canonical: you are SOOOOOO wrong) i'm interested in
your counter arguments.