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?

RE: Peter 10/15/11

In Peter's most recent post, he humorously discussed Adorno's dislike for popular music and the lack of intellect, over sex appeal, and weird clothing in k-pop. He ended with the question: What sort of processes would music need to undergo to start focusing more on substance, focusing more on the characteristics Adrono seems to find in true, intellectual music?

Since mainstream music is what the majority of America and other cultures listen to, the change would need to start there. Also, the majority of artists themselves(at least in pop music) are just puppets, so the change would have to occur at the producer's level.
One change could be the addition of harmonies to the pieces. Radio music is "dumbed down," it's not put on the radio unless it is easy to listen to, it is simple and easy to remember. This sometimes means the lack of harmonies. Or if there are harmonies they are recorded very quietly.
That leads me to my next change-- dynamics. Most of the music I hear on the radio is all of the same volume, there are no decrescendos, crescendos, sffz, or dynamic contrast what-so ever. People just want to hear the music blaring all at the same volume and do not want to pay attention to the pianissimos, chances are the listener would turn up their radio and then turn it down when it got to the loud parts -- they would think there was something wrong with their radio. But this is because we have been conditioned to the mono-dynamic waves of our culture's mindless music.
Another change would be lyrics. Peter gave the example of the hook to a k-pop song "GEE GEE GEE GEE BABY BABY BABY." These lyrics are lacking in intellect and they are not even communicating anything. There are many popular songs in our culture in which the lyrics do not even make sense, are just words for the sake of saying something, or are the same thing repeated over and over again-- having a good lyrical hook then just mindless babble after that. To have these artists sing about things that matter or to sing true poetry, instead of about dancing, sex, drugs, and break-ups would be make a substantial difference on the way to intellectual music.
Another change could be the use of real musicians instead of synthesizers. Some songs do have real pianos and many have real guitar players and drummers. Yet, other songs just use synthesized, out of tune, crap that probably took little talent to create. I admit some synthesized music is impressive and does take talent to create, yet Brittany Spears stuff does not fit this category. It's more intellectual when synthesized music is a pure composition where every note and rhythm, every harmony and lyrical phrase was not copied, it came from the mind of the composer. These changes would lead to more intellectual music.
Of course, Adorno would say that straying away from the I, IV, V would also be a change that would lead us closer to intellectual music.

Question: Does music need to communicate something to be considered intelligent?