Thursday, February 14, 2013

Musical Language - Philippe Moore

  1. “Musical Language” - Radiolab
  2. Topic and theme, anything new to say? focused and exciting?
    1. A search for what makes music music, and what musical elements are present in our daily life. How language and music are related. Science of hearing, cultural ramifications of speech,  hard science behind what is generally pleasant sounding versus what is not pleasant, on the electrical level. Innate appreciation of music on a neurological level. Jad and Robert are always intensely interested in the topics which they explore, which is one reason their podcast is so compelling. The enthusiasm with which they explore the content is engaging in its own right, as is their insightful questioning and occasional disagreement.
  3. Issues of “listening” or “hearing” and the role of technology
    1. More than just words/spoken language in the podcast, lots of supporting and complementary sounds as examples, etc. a cello playing the musical/language phrases behind the words. Hearing as touch. Listening => rioting! The podcast addresses technology more as a way of understanding how we hear. In the case of the rioting after the Rite of Spring, the difference between the first audience and the second audience is as much a difference between hearing and not being able to listen and hearing and being able to listen. The second group had been conditioned to find the patterns in the music and were thus capable of listening and appreciating the music. Technology is used as a facilitator of musical analysis in the case of David Cope. He used an algorithm to find patterns in compositional style between composers and used those patterns to generate his own music in their styles. This reveals the underlying patterns and structures which we find pleasant or determinist of a specific style. Look to the Shape of Song for a visualization of something similar to this.
  4. Theoretical and Cultural contexts beyond historical and biographical documentary?
    1. Musical psychology, tone languages, cultural languages, obstetrics (baby language/music), sounds as touch at a distance. Neurology. We touched on topics from several different languages and cultures, as well as various scientific disciplines to form a synthesis of knowledge around the topic of music and language. We came from a linguistics and language-centric place to talk about things sometimes behaving strangely, and also to analyze tone languages in relation to perfect pitch. We then turned to neurology to determine a scientific basis for why certain pitches “feel” different based on consonance or dissonance. This analysis gave us a lens through which to explain the rioting at the Rite of Spring’s first performance. As already discussed, an algorithm was used to find patterns in composition for David Cope to use Emmy to reproduce musical styles (and create completely new ones).
  5. Specific audio production/phenomenon, techniques or styles demonstrated. Encourage and support us to listen to, compare and/or contrast specific “sonorous objects.”
    1. Radiolab has an excellent technique for maintaining listener presence and awareness. The rhythm and procedure of unravelling each thought or concept is such that we are encouraged to remain on our toes and at attention. Often one or the other of Jad or Rob will interject (whether in post-production or in real-time) with a thought or clarification. As they speak there is often other sounds pervading the atmosphere of the studio space. One feels the thoughts in these other sounds, whether it be examples of David Cope’s Emmy compositions or the tonalities of spoken Mandarin. These primary examples serve to root our thought in a specific context, rather than having to imagine without the fodder for thought. Various post-production techniques--speed manipulation, cuts, overlapping, spatializing effects, etc.-- serve to maintain a presence in the production that maintains our focus.
      The podcast is rife with sonorous objects, encouraging us to listen to the tonal qualities of the spoken word by accompanying it, and other sounds, with a tonal gesture played by a cello. The aforementioned post-production techniques, aside from the maintenance of our attention, also serve to further separate the sound from the source of the sound. Each manipulation, each cut, each stretch and buzz causes the sound to enter into its own space and to be perceived under its own terms. While listening to this podcast in particular, I found myself listening for the musical content in the speech of the narrators and interviewees.  
  6. What would I do if this were my podcast?
    1. If this were my podcast, there is one thing I would have liked to hear to more clearly illustrate the point. The work of Diana Deutsch in tonal languages could have been explored more thoroughly by playing back tones of spoken phrases from popular sources and having the audience and narrators attempt to discern the content of the speech from the musical qualities of the tones. At least the attempt to do this could illustrate even further the point brought up by Jonah Lehrer’s work on the Rite of Spring and may have provided insight into how David Cope chose lyrics for his Emmy-derived compositions.


Trace said...

I really like this phrase you use in section 5: "listener presence." I like thinking about the challenge of podcasting not just about establishing the place of voice, but the space of the ear as well; and not just the hearing ear, but the listening ear, which implies a greater, more substantive awareness and attentiveness. Other blog reviewers in our class have noted that how they hear themselves and others talk has changed since listening to this podcast. Did you experience something similar?

PhEEP said...

My self-awareness is constantly shifting between complete disarray and an intensity of presence depending on my state of mind. I often find this state informed by what I happen to be focusing on and participating in. The active listening necessary for this class, as well as the accompanying literature, has greatly informed my listening presence and I find my self taking out my phone to record how a space sounds, simply because I find the sound intriguing.

I think what has changed the most is how I place sound within an emotional/philosophical/physical/psychological context. I am generating a language for describing sounds and sensations that have existed largely outside of the scope of language. Also, associating sound with culture reverberates with my own thoughts on civilization and the direction we are going with our technology.