Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Greek Chorus

I was walking home from my Wittgenstein Reading Group, a few hours ago, enjoying Vivaldi's "Der Herbst" as I headed back up Conduit Road (that's one hell of a climb), and I began noticing how well music works as a soundtrack in conditions of low visibility. It seems to dramatise everything, and give a particular edge to people emerging from the darkness, and heading back into it in silence. That got me thinking about how wonderful it was to have the small flat device the size of a business card (aka my iPod nano) that could allow me to carry my favourite music around with me. Actually, it is the very storage of music which is marvelous here - the very idea that any person with the equipment could hear Vivaldi's Four Seasons in the comfort of his living room, alone. We can afford to hear things again and again, and to let it play in the background, almost outside of our consciousness, knowing that should we want to hear it again, it will be there.

How different it must have been just 150 years ago, before the phonograph, when the only way to hear a particular piece was to go to a concert, or if you were rich, to have someone come play it at your house. How different must musical intentionality have been, knowing that that particular hearing of a certain tune could well be, for purely logistical/material reasons, your last. Auditors must have focused intently on the music, savouring each moment (for cases where the song was worth it), trying to remember and record the experience. Never would they have imagined that the masses a near century-and-a-half later would view music in a completely different way...

This raises the question: is music the area where social practices and norms define intentionality? Why would the other methods of human interaction be any different. Language and communication, the notion of self, the self in the world, and what things are and aren't... why would these be conserved and unchanged? We generally assume that people of the past are essentially just like us, with a different basic body of knowledge, and weird clothes. But what's to say that the mental difference isn't drastically different the further you go back...

Side note: I wish I could get credit for idle musings like this, and not have to do this goddamn physics project. Oh well, back to work...


Jen said...

surely you mean 'geek chorus'

...snigger ;)

Edward said...

Haha... well not really. But on that note, did you ever hear the story about the guy who's hard-disk crashed in the middle of a kernel recompilation, and who lost all his data?

... *drumroll*

It was a geek tragedy!

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