Friday, March 18, 2011

On Tying Together Activities

"How any given tone is understood, then, has at least as much to do with what people make of it as with the physical properties of sound itself" (World Music Traditions and Transformations, Michael B. Bakan 3)

How to account for this? How can the same arrangement of notes mean completely different things between two people?

A person is a holism of activity, meaning that multiple aspects of the world and the organizing of that world occur simultaneously. Music itself is an activity of listening and of anticipating movements in sound.

If there is a sudden car crash nearby, it is always made somewhat amusing if the car crash happens to take on the rythm, beat, and timbre of a known and popular dance or pop song, just out of the sheer coincidence of it. As the crash occurs, anyone attuned to the song will anticipate the progression of the song as soon as the sounds are noticed moving that direction. Of course, a person who has not built up the anticipatory structure will just hear a series of clanks and bangs.

But, for the central question here, what makes music become attached to other activities, such as the same music that is in a religious ritual happens to be played, in a nother culture, during a T.V. advertisement of burgers and fries? Despite being the same sounds in both cases, what is it that makes the sounds takes on two distinct meanings in two different cultures?

As persons are a holism of activities, the learning of a song (the activity of listening) and the learning of a central religious ceremony (the activity of walking and dressing a certain way) will occur simultaneously--the disposition to anticipate a certain progression of sounds and to walk and dress in a particular way is the same disposition. Neurologically (to not resist becomming outdated (years ago I should have said 'genetically')), the structure in the brain that is built for the song will be tied to and built with the structure of the rest of the activity involved in the religious ritual. The notes anticipate not just a further succession of notes (which is itself a disposition) but all the other dispositions tied in with anticipating those notes, religious or siitting on the couch craving burgers. It's even clear that what ties all activities together is itself one, holistic disposition.