If a Cosmos Bangs in the Void and Nobody Hears it, Does it Make a Sound?
I said, HOW IS MUSIC EVEN POSSIBLE?! What, are you deaf?
"What must the world be like, what must I be like, if between me and the world the phenomenon of music can occur? How must I consider the world, how must I consider myself, if I am to understand the reality of music?"
Good questions. They were asked by Victor Zuckerkandl in his cult classic, Sound and Symbol: Music and the External World. Unfortunately, the cult consists only of me, so it seems that no one took Zuckerkandl's ideas and riffed with them. I briefly touched on them in my book of the sane gnome (see page 44-45), but this is another one of those motifs that could have been a symphony in itself. I needed to change keys and move on.
But with my new found slack, I've been revisiting the book. Referring back to the previous post, what if the ears provide a better account of the nature of reality than do the eyes? This would certainly be consistent with Judeo-Christian metaphysics: in the beginning was the Word, not the brightly colored object.
But the Word is only heard by those with ears to hear. Seeing is different. In order to see, all you have to do is open your eyes, and the image forces itself upon you. Remember what happened in the Garden: eating from the tree of good and evil results in the eyes being opened. What were they before?
I would say that before that, the ears were dominant over the eyes. This is how it was possible to have such an intimate relationship with the Creator. Again, the ears do not divide the world in a dualistic sense, as that which we hear is not exactly outside, nor is it inside; rather, as we shall explain in more detail in a subsequent post -- hearing -- or, more specifically, music -- uniquely occurs in the mysterious transitional space between matter and neurology. It can by no means be located in just one or the other (for example, a tune-deaf person hears the identical notes, but not the melody).
Zuckerkandl discusses the interesting differences between the blind and the deaf. Upon superficial consideration, one would think that the blind person would feel more cut off from the world, and have more reason to be irritable, paranoid, and distrustful. "Yet it is not the blind man who shows the typical reaction of the prisoner, the man spied upon, who must always be on his guard; it is the deaf man, whose most important organ of connection with the world has remained unimpaired" (Zuckerkandl).
During my internship at Camarillo State Mental Hospital, my supervisor was a blind man. He was the sweetest and most gentle, not to mention, perceptive, soul you could imagine. But you may have noticed that when people start to lose their hearing, they often become sullen or cranky. Often they deny that it's happening, and blame the world. How come movies these days are so damn quiet! Why does everyone mumble!
For the blind man, "other modes of connection with the world are revealed to him, modes that are otherwise overshadowed by the dominance of the eye -- as if, in the realms with which he thus comes into contact, man were less alone, better provided for, more at home, than in the world of visible things to which the deaf man is directed and to which an element of foreignness always clings."
Now interestingly, there was a time, not so very long ago, that man was blind half the time. It was called night. I don't think we appreciate -- in fact, I'm sure we don't -- the psychological effects of having light at night; not just a little candle, mind you, but the complete conquest of darkness. The total blackness of night is almost inconceivable to us today, and with it, a host of mysteries to which we only gain entrance by facing and living with the darkness. No wonder early humans worshiped the sun, and readily "saw" the connection between light and thought (likewise the feminine moon, which is to unconscious as the male sun is to conscious).
What did human beings do back then in the dark of the night? Well, for one thing, they huddled around the campfire and told stories. As I have mentioned before, there are many things that only make sense at 2:00 AM, in total silence and darkness. Just because they don't make sense at 2:00 PM hardly means that they don't make sense. Think of some of the epic stories of the Bible -- floods, giants, talking serpents, etc. If these aren't engaged with the imagination -- which only comes out at night, or by somehow suppressing and "endarkening" the dominant, light-filled left brain -- then they won't reveal their secrets.
Furthermore, there are some stories we tell by day that make no sense whatsoever in the darkness of night -- for example, Darwinian fairy tales, or silly myths about whole universes suddenly banging into being out of nothing and for no reason. Such things are easy to believe for someone who doesn't know that reality extends beyond the securely enclosed firmament of egoic consciousness. It's like imagining that the world is encircled by the sky, just because we see it by day. At night, the comforting sky recedes into the infinite darkness, and we are confronted by the billions of things concealed by daylight and tenure.
Could it be that "man attains the inwardness of life by hearing and its outwardness by seeing?" (Zuckerkandl). Hmm, let me listen to that question for awhile...
Feel free to vote. True, it's a frivolous exercise, but the notoriety may help some lost and lonely member of the vertical diaspora find us, like how Manny finds Ellie in Ice Age 2: