Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Cosmic Corso & Recorso: Tones for Joan's Bones

Thanks to music, we are able to behold time. --Zuckerkandl

[T]he deeper teaching of music concerns the nature not of 'psyche' but of 'cosmos.' --Zuckerkandl

Our personality is precisely that: the continuous melody of our inner life. --Bergson

I just wanted to wrap up this series of posts about music, because I want to move on to a couple of other topics, hopefully starting tomorrow. For this reason, it may have a bit of a rushed feel, but I need to finish this performance and go on to the next gig.

For reasons that should be bobvious, the following passage by Zuckerkandl caught my attention. It is a continuation of the idea that in a melody, one tone recalls the past and anticipates the future, handing it off to the next one:

"In the course of this motion, then, the departing becomes a returning. The direction of the motion at the beginning appears changed into its opposite at the end. Is it possible to determine a point at which the reversal takes place, at which 'away from' becomes 'toward'?"

In my book, I put forth the idea that there exist nonlocal "attractors" in the phase space of the human psyche. In fact, in the final analysis, you could say that man is suspended roughly halfway between two Great Attractors. You can call them "spirit and matter" or "being and non-being" or "heaven and earth" or "slack and conspiracy," but again, I prefer the more abstract and unsaturated symbols, which I unname O and Ø.

Faith is an absolute prerequisite when one is circling in the obit of the Ø attractor, and in the absence of faith, one will remain stuck there, cash to ash and lust to dust. But with patient surrender, a point is reached whereby faith is slowly transformed, either to knowledge, or love, or virtue, or being.

Afterwards faith is still required, as one must continuously "empty oneself" in order for the endless process to continue. It's just that now one is "moving toward" instead of "away from" -- like a rocket that has escaped the earth's gravitational pull. At some point the ascent from earth becomes a descent to the moon, and "motion and gravity point in the same direction."

Now, you might think that the point of the spiritual life is to escape Ø in order to flee toward O, so to speak. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that this purely ascending approach is one way of doing it, but I think it is only a half measure. Beware of spiritual mentors who only teach you how to fly but not to land.

Rather, the point is to come "full circle" back round to Ø, which then becomes infused and revivified, so to speak, with O. Darkness and death are resurrected in the Light of the return. This is how we can say that our end is in our beginning, and vice versa, and how we can thereby know the place for the first time. The Poet was not merely being poetic, but noetic.

The octave -- the completion of the scale -- is simultaneously an arrival and a return, like the prodigal son. Various paradoxes of physics -- "wherever we go, we return; start and goal are one and the same; all paths travel back to their own beginning -- are in the world of tone, simple statements of fact."

Now, just as the melody represents the reality of immaterial horizontal wholeness, the chord, or harmony in general, is only possible because of our ability to transparently grasp its transcendent vertical wholeness. Again, the melody is in time, the harmony in space.

As Zuckerkandl desribes it, "the basic chord," "the holy chord of our music, is the triad, the conjoint of three tones arranged in a definite pitch pattern."

Here I am reminded of the vocal harmonies of the Byrds, in which Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark would generally double each other, but David Crosby would provide the real harmony by moving around from note to note within that frame, altering its center of gravity and creating a kind of ascending and descending vertical motion. At one moment he might take the lower note, but then move to the higher note, giving the passage a dynamic and soaring quality.

This is very different from the distressing experience Ms. Joan had the other day in being subjected to new age musical pap while undergoing a much deserved massage. As she put it, the masseuse "had a CD of so-called music that was only one long sustained note with buzzing and tinkling bells all around it. It created the opposite of peace and tranquility in my Spirit, and told me volumes about her own. I couldn't explain to her in words what was wrong, but now I know that I was experiencing the nihilistic 'music' of nothingness. This confirms to me also, that eternal nothingness is not bliss. It is madness."

That is exactly how Zuckerkandl describes it: a "filling of the gaps between tone and tone, a sirenlike glissading up and down, does not produce the most perfect musical motion but no musical experience at all; it produces mere noise." Hardly the appropriate Tones For Joan's Bones.

The next series of posts will further explicate this idea of a vertical approach to spirituality, in which the individual harmonizes with the ultimate Other, vs. O-bliterating one's own melody within it.

Heavenly harmonies:

More harmonic goodness:

One more:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life Begins at Two

I don't like to get all self-referential this early in the morning, but in my book I present the idea that humanness could never have emerged merely as a result of a big brain. Rather, it could -- and can -- only occur as a result of individuals being linked up in the transitional space between them. Thus, you could say that the large brain was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition. The sufficient condition was the invention of the neurologically incomplete and helpless infant (and this is leaving aside the essential factor of the final cause, the nonlocal archetype of man as such). (This, by the way, is one of the reasons why I don't believe intelligent life exists elsewhere -- the evolutionary neck is just too freakishly narrow.)

Interestingly, it is the same with music. "A tone," according to Zuckerkandl, is not yet music." Rather, "music actually begins when a second tone has followed the first." Therefore, strictly speaking, "the smallest particle of music, then, the musical atom, is not properly the tone but the connection of the tone with the tone, the interval." So really, it's a kind of threeness: tone 1, tone 2, and the link between them. Presumably, any living thing with ears can hear a tone. But only humans can link tone to tone in a meaningful way.

Like life itself, music is "ordered motion," a "complex kinetic organism." Not only can we perceive its motion, but its direction. Even children can discern "the rise and fall of the tones in musical space." In other words, they can distinguish "high" notes from "low" ones. Which is interesting, because no one looks at violet and sees that it is "higher" than red; nor could you create visual music by presenting successive beams of light vibrating at different frequencies. For that matter, no one would say "that the fourth floor of a house was sharper than the third, the first flatter then the second" (Zuckerkandl).

In music, high notes, such as those played by the flute, are often associated with gaity, with spring, with frivolity, with angels and fairies and similarly fruity things. Is this just culturally conditioned? Would it be possible to use the flute to express deep gravity, like the voice of God? I doubt it; not for nothing is Barney's last name Fife. However, it can obviously communicate an aspect of God, which is no doubt why Krishna is never far from his flute. A quick google search reveals the following:

"Flute is the oldest musical instrument known to mankind.... the flute is very close to Nature and sounds very melodious when played in an atmosphere surrounded by Nature.... For example, if you take a short flute to mountains or a thick forest and then play, the echo of the sound bouncing back either from the leaves of the trees or from the mountains is simply very delightful. Every flute player in such circumstances receives a celestial experience. Nature actually talks back to you."

Back to the twoness -- or threeness -- of music. Like time, music "moves forward," even while retaining and remembering the past. The reason why music is possible is that one tone recalls the previous one and "anticipates" the next; there is a curious lack of fulfillment present to each tone, as it "completes itself" by handing over the melody to its neighbor. Again, very strange when you stop to think about it: "No musical tone is sufficient unto itself; and as each musical tone points beyond itself, reaches, as it were, a hand to the next, so we too, as these hands reach out, listen tensely and expectantly for each next tone."

Therefore, to be "in" music is a phenomenologically complex state, for one cannot merely be in the moment and hear what it is all about; rather, "to be auditively in the time now sounding means, then, to always be ahead of it too, on the way to the next tone." I suppose it's no different than understanding speech. In so doing, we don't recognize the fact that listening only to the individual words will not reveal the meaning of what the speaker is saying. Rather, we must simultaneously listen to and beyond them.

Seriously, it's amazing that unambiguous meaning can be transmitted from mind to mind, except in the case of purely objective information. In order to accomplish this feat, I must have a meaning in mind, reverse engineer it by selecting the individual words to convey it without distortion and with all subtlety in tact, and then hope that the hearer will take those words and reassemble them to arrive at the same complex meaning.

To cite one obvious example of how communication can go awry, I can't think of a single troll who understands my actual meaning before attacking it. Instead, they use my words to construct a monstrous chimera of their own making, and then attack the trollucination.

Along these lines, at American Digest a commenter remarked that "Science is much harder then religion, because religion doesn't have a lot of really hard math." Actually, it's the opposite. Science, especially the closer it gets to math, is an example of information that can be conveyed from head to head in a very unproblematic, undistorted manner -- which is the very reason why it results in such a philosophically simplistic world, a world far too simple for the human mind to exist in it.

In contrast, the truths, say, of Shakespeare, are far more complex and subtle. Who would be foolish enough to compare the intellect of Shakespeare to the typical worker bee scientist? Among other things, Shakespeare, although writing 400 years ago without benefit of modern science, tapped into deep human truths that will always be true. Unlike science, they are not subject to fashion or to revocation by a tenure-seeking mediocrity.

In Our Culture, What's Left of It, there is a chapter entitled Why Shakespeare Is for All Time. Scientists tell us that there is no such thing as "essences," including such fanciful notions as "self" or "human nature." Fortunately, Shakespeare knows nothing of that postmodern nonsense, but "is interested in the essentials of human nature, not the accidentals of human history."

And there is surely a reason why one can pass through our elite universities without ever encountering Shakespeare, but learning all kinds of multicultural nonsense about lesbian poets and post-colonial authors of color.

For, among other things, Shakespeare undercuts the first principle of the left by destroying "the utopian illusion that social arrangements can be made so perfect that men will no longer have to be good." He knows that human nature is inclined toward the temptation to evil, which "will always make a mockery of attempts at perfection based upon manipulation of the environment." Instead, "prevention of evil" will always "require personal self-control and the conscious limitation of appetites" (Dalrymple).

In contrast, one could master everything there is to know about natural selection, but it would reveal no wisdom whatsoever: "Statistics will not lead us to enlightenment about ourselves, any more than elucidation of the human genome will render Shakespeare redundant. Those who think that an understanding of the double helix is the same as an understanding of ourselves are not only prey to an illusion but are stunting themselves as human beings, condemning themselves not to an advance of self-understanding, but to a positive retrogression" (Dalrymple).

This is an example of how the melody of man can be played backward to reveal a hidden satanic message.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Listening to History: The Testimony of Music

If music is meaningful -- if it wordlessly says something about reality -- what does it say, and can we translate it to mere speech?

Here we are not so much concerned with what this or that performance conveys, but with what music as such tells us. And according to Zuckerkandl, music transmits fundamental truths about time, space, and motion, which are only the fabric of reality. As I said somewhere in my book -- here it is, p. 44, quoting the Z man:

"The knowledge of space that hand and eye possess is exactly matched by their ignorance of time.... A true image of time must be an image for the ear, an audible image, an image made of tones.... Thanks to music, we are able to behold time."

That right there is an earful: behold time. Everyone knows how difficult it is to say what time "is," because as soon as we begin to look at it, it slips through our grubby fingers. Indeed, it is one of those fundamentals, like consciousness, that defy verbal description. We cannot describe time or consciousness because we are "in" them, and could never be outside of them. It would be like a fish trying to describe the ocean, or a member of the MSM trying to look at liberalism.

But if Zuckerkandl is correct, music is a way to stand "above" time while still being in it. That is, music is a meaningful organization of time, an "ordered motion" which serially reveals its meaning as we listen, like a kind of rotating object.

Hold it right there -- "ordered motion?" Surely music doesn't "move" in the conventional sense of the term. We don't have to follow it around the room in order to keep up with it. In this regard, it "moves" and "flows" in the same way the mind does, like a con-versation (literally, "flowing together") that wends its way to its nonlocal "point." What are we talking about right now? Frankly, we don't yet know. All we know is that we're in the process of arriving there. Don't you feel the cool breeze blowing along your neocortex?

This very much reminds me of the "fundamental rule" in psychoanalysis, which is free association. The purpose of free association is to liberate the right brain from the tyranny of the left, so that we can stop making sense for a while -- superficial sense, that is. The left brain always has a ready store of excuses, cover stories, alibis, personal myths, and other "time binding" structures. It is the spinmeister extraordinaire.

And that's what any narrative is, a time binder, a way to contain and organize time. Consider that idea for a moment: just as we require structures to bind space -- for example, our home -- we also need structures to enclose us in time. Think of all the shoddy and substandard temporal shacks people live in to keep the hostile elements out of their little myths!

The Islamist myth is quintessential in this regard. By the way, I read The Looming Tower last week, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is the best book of which I am aware of the whole history of Islamism, which is even more bizarre and bloodthirsty than you may think. It is interesting that the Islamists especially detest any form of western music. But the Islamist myth is like a kind of insane opera that binds all of history into one dramatic arc.

This kind of insane monomythology also afflicts the left. In his Our Culture, What's Left of It, Dalrymple writes of the "various branches (feminist, gay, and so on) of academic resentment studies, in which history is nothing but the backward projection of current grievances, real or imagined, used to justify and inflame resentment."

Such individuals are not living in time; rather, they are living in an "eternal now" of resentment which is then widened out to encompass the past and future. This is the basis of Obama's never-ending World Apology Tour, as if his personal shame is a reliable source of information about America.

Note that "the object of such historiography is to disconnect everyone from a real sense of a living past and a living culture." The point of these leftist monomyths is to oust us from the deep vertical narrative that unites us, so that "people find themselves cut off from the past as a matter of deliberate policy." As the cultural left has made its long march through the institutions, it has waged a brazen campaign against our past, enforced by the dehumanizing newspeak of political correctness. In the end, "nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."

To bring this back around to the original point, any enforced political dystopia must be rooted in a kind of existential amusia, in which one has lost (or is prevented from exercising) the ability to detect the rhythm, melody, and harmony of history.

In his outstanding Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, Jourdain talks about how the greatest works of music parallel the greatest scientific achievements: "In all branches of cognitive endeavor, our highest praise is reserved for works that build the deepest hierarchies. When these works are scientific theories, they explain the world more comprehensively than lesser ones." They aren't like, say, metaphysical Darwinism, which simplistically and fanatically eliminates so many other vital truths of man -- without which man is no longer even man, so that the theory cannot be said to actually explain him as he truly is. Man must be eliminated in order to save the theory.

The kind of cognitive synthesis we are describing is very much analogous to the uniquely horizontal basis of western music, through which many different instruments and musical lines are harmonized and brought together in a moment of listening. It takes a capacious musical mind to compose a work capable of unifying so many diverse strands, both in time and space. Such works "show us relations far deeper than we are normally able to perceive," and reach far "across time to encompass the deepest relations." And interestingly, "harmony became elaborate in Western music at about the same time that perspective was introduced into painting during the Renaissance."

And wouldn't you know it, "it turns out that the left ear, which channels primarily to the right brain, displays clear superiority" in "making sense of melodies." Which is why the harmelody of the cosmos can only be heard through a great imaginative synthesis of its many voices, passages, and movements.