Getting Into the Melody of Existence
So why are some series of tones meaningful, while others are not? It's a tricky question, because meaning usually involves one thing that stands for and symbolizes another; there is the signifier (the symbol or word) and that which it signifies (the object, concept, activity, etc.).
But melodies don't refer to anything but themselves. Yes, there is programmatic music intended to evoke preconceived ideas and emotions, but that is the exception. The greatest music is completely abstract, and has no external referent.
Zuckerkandl writes that "when we hear a melody, we hear things that have no counterpart in physical nature." This is again why music occupies that third area, the mysterious transitional space alluded to in the previous post. A single tone -- or the cat running across the keyboard -- is not a musical phenomenon, but merely an acoustical one. Does this imply that music is therefore "unreal," like an auditory hallucination? Perhaps, so long as we agree with Terence McKenna that there exist true hallucinations.
What is it that converts the tone into a note, and the note into a melody? I would suggest that it is the same cosmic force that converts an atom into a molecule, molecule into a cell, and a cell into a body. As discussed somewhere in the Coonifesto, one of the problems with philosophical Darwinism is that it presupposes a very particular kind of cosmos, one in which wholeness is built into its very fabric. Neither music nor natural selection would be possible in any other kind of world.
But ironically, Darwinists nevertheless promulgate a very different kind of cosmos, one in which cats running around on keyboards will eventually produce the works of Bach. As a result, there is an infinite and unbridgeable gap -- literally -- between matter and life, to say nothing of life and mind. There is simply no plausible explanation for how a universe of logical atomism -- of distinct notes wholly external to one another -- could every have snapped to attention and begun reflecting upon itself and singing the Sounds of Science.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand tenured maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
Again, as explained in my book, wholeness implies both interiority and meaning. It implies the latter by virtue of the fact that the parts may participate in a higher entity which is their meaning. And it implies the former for the simple reason that meaning of any kind can only take place in an interior. But again, this meaning is not merely an eccentric and wholly private hallucination (although it certainly can be). Rather, it takes place in the transitional space between world and neurology, where truth, beauty, and virtue enter the world.
The point is that a melody is a whole through which the individual note derives its meaning. The note is only meaningful in the context of the melody. Nor does a random succession of tones make a melody, as with the cat. When we perceive a melody, we are perceiving none other than "wholeness in action." Just as we can perceive static wholeness in space -- say, an animal or building -- we are also able to perceive wholeness in time. Thus, we see how intimately related to music are history, biography, and narratives of any kind.
Zuckerkandl writes that "such a thing as 'mere matter' does not exist in music; its very material is permeated with relation to wholeness." In music, "we hear the promise of a whole that it bears within itself."
The promise of a whole. What does that remind me of? (No, not the promise of a-holes; that's a different subject.)
Oh yes. Religion -- and the faith required to "hear" what it discloses if only you sharpen your ears. For "in the outer world there are forces active whose activity transcends the physical, and at least one of our senses is an organ capable of directly perceiving nonphysical occurrences."
Again, the existence of music cannot be understood in dualistic terms, i.e., physical and psychic. Rather, Zuckerkandl speaks of the "external psychic," but one could just as well say "interior material," for both are ineluctable properties of cosmic wholeness. But "so greatly is our thinking under the spell of the two-worlds schema!" As a result, philosophical explanations swing from the one to the other, even while the explanations -- and music -- can only occur in the transitional third. This is why solid matter is "transparent" to mind, which can "see" and "hear" what is going on "inside" of it.
"In." That might be the most mysterious little word in our entire vocabulary, even more mysterious than being, or AM. For science posits a world of pure exteriority, an IT IS, as it were. The problem is how the IT IS ever results in the I AM, which requires something being "inside" the IT IS. But how do we get in?
Many of us don't. Perhaps you've noticed that one of the most painful aspects of depression is that it prevents one from "getting into" things. It is as if the world is reduced to its IT aspect, with no meaning or depth, i.e., interiority.
Stupidity (e.g., materialism, neo-Marxism, Obamism) results in the same thing, which is why it is so depressing to be around spiritually opaque and dense people who are exiled from the deep interiority of the cosmos, or just living in a collective hallucination. Religion is all about disclosing and reconnecting with this interiority, of "being in." This being in is the tonal center of both man and cosmos, from where all the best melodies arise and return.
Here's a swingin' little loony coon for you: