Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thinking and language

In class yesterday it was said the thinking does not equal language. This statement seem a bit problematic to me. When we are thinking, what are units for which we think with? We do not think with emotions (although you could argue intuition or a gut feeling is a thought we could go off of), we are not thinking in visuals, we are thinking with language. You cannot have thoughts without language, at least thoughts beyond the primal level. Monkeys do not think, cats do not think, birds do not think beyond the primal level, they do not think with words, they just act and go off of instinctive drives. They do not lounge around thinking about the meaning of life, what they are going to do tomorrow, or wonder what someone else is thinking. We think in language for the most part. When someone says the word 'elephant' you think in visual mode, you picture an elephant. Yet, when it comes to mundane thinking you do not think in pictures or emotions for that matter.

When Hamilton said that "Thinking in music, thinking with sounds, the way a writer thinks with words. 'Thinking in sound' takes, not simply a beautiful pattern of sounds caused by thoughts." He means that musicians are not using words when they compose, they think using sounds. Yet, later he states that music is a special kind of thinking that involves the "sensuous and the cognitive" which goes to say that composers use non-linguistic and linguistic thinking. This makes sense. Say you are writing a ballet piece, you think of the melody without thinking of any words, the pattern of sounds was the only thought in your head. Now, when it comes to the need to write it down you think to yourself "I need to write this down." Now it comes to a part where you think in language again "now for the clarinet solo", you then think in sound again, with language peeking in its sneaky and useful head every once and a while "no, I do not like that interval there how about this..." I think you get the point. We cannot think without words, no matter how hard we try and no matter what task we are doing we are going to use language while doing it in one way or the other.

Question: Does thinking in sound relate to any other context beyond music?