Monday, May 18, 2015

The Materialist Models of Consciousness and Ideas Are Unbelievable When Looking At Real Experiences As Opposed to Reductionist Models Supposedly Representing Those

While I should have been concentrating on what my student was playing and giving him his money's worth of advice and observations, I couldn't help but wonder if every single note being heard in Bach's 14th Two-Part Invention existed as an independent idea-structure in each of our brains and if the fact that so many of those notes are played slightly differently, heard slightly differently on each re-playing of the piece under his hands doesn't obviously necessitate the construction of new idea-structures with every performance of every note that we hear, structures that have to be made virtually instantaneously.

If the idea is embodied in a physical structure in my brain it must happen instantaneously, because I can remember the distinct character of those notes so that we can discuss them after he's done playing the piece, that one might be held a little longer, sustaining a legato line - as Bach points out was his intention in writing those inventions - or if that one might not be cut slightly shorter to distinguish where that phrase ends, or maybe not.  And the idea of what he played must be constructed instantly and be biologically active because I can stop him while he's playing to make a suggestion.  If the materialists are right, it must happen as I'm hearing the rapid notes pass by and those structures would be biologically active instantly because they can be evaluated to see if they match the written instructions on the page and my ever changing ideas about that and about the piece as heard and imagined.

I don't think the materialists understand how exigent the requirements of human experience and thought are when you consider them as they really are in our experience in real time, in their vast and ever changing varieties and what that means for their proposed models of how that is the product of material causation. In accounting for real life experience as we really experience it, real time is a crucial issue.  One which can't possible be made compatible with some of the cruder proposed popularly imagined models based on the construction of novel molecules that would exactly be the idea created by DNA molecules - just one of the microscopic entities raised up to the status of a god in the popular, materialist misunderstanding of science - could hardly measure up to in real time or in omnipotent omniscience, not to mention psychic ability to anticipate the future.  The perceived notes do have duration.  The idea-structure for any given note would have to be formed so as to account for all of its characters as those were happening.   The idea of the beginning of the note would have to have formed in order for me to reach the idea of the end of that note so I could judge if it were long enough or short enough in context.  Does that one not not require at least two different ideas for me to make that judgement?  How about each nanosecond of that duration?  How is that supposed to be built by the brain?

And, now, later, I wonder, are all of the notes in the great Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue BWV 903 not entitled to their own distinct idea-structure, and wouldn't each of the notes in those startling chords, sounding so much more modern than even much of the music written in the middle and later 19th century,  have to have their own distinct idea-structure and how would the structures for the individual notes that make up those startling chords, experienced both as individual notes and as distinct harmonic wholes, not help but be both separate and the same.

As a more general example, an e natural note as the third of a C major chord is certainly not the same idea as it is as the root of an e minor chord or the minor seventh in an F# dominant seventh chord or the fifth of a diminished chord where it's possibly not even called or notated as "e" but as an "fb", the musical identity and experience of the same note on the keyboard being so different in context and in the harmonic function intended by the composer requiring a different "spelling".  The musical identity of the note in the unnamed, often entirely unprecedented harmonic contexts in modern music can be of virtually infinite variety.  All of which brain-only brains would have to record as different experiences and thus different ideas of the same pitch.

And then there are all of the notes, all of the chords, all of the elements of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue as recorded by the great pianist Rudolph Serkin, the first recording of it I ever heard of it, the first experience I had of it, and that which I just listened to on clavichord played by Wim Winters,  [the 1950 recording by Serkin is only partially posted online so I won't link to it].  The perception of the same piece, played on different instruments with quite distinctively different styles and concepts of performance practice has to generate different ideas.  How can the piece be the same piece and yet be such a different experience?  Especially if "the piece" exists as a material structure*.   And one doesn't replace the other in my memory of the piece, my sense is of the same piece in two different and very distinct renditions.  And they are hardly the only ones I've heard, including my own playing of it.  And then that's a thing.  OR MAYBE NOT.  A "thing" that is.

The experience, my idea of the piece is very different playing it as distinct from listening to someone else play it.  And I doubt I've played it twice in the same way, not to mention every other piece I've studied and taught and listened to.  For one thing the style requires improvised ornaments and, especially in the fantasia, other spontaneous elements of performance required by the style.   As I mentioned a while back, despite what non-musicians might believe, any performer of classical music won't play the same piece exactly the same way twice but will - hopefully - do it differently, hopefully better with repeated performances.

The would-be scientific view of music is often quite funny in its naivete, the idea that a note is the same note in different contexts reduces music, an experienced experience, into a would-be analysis of it as if it were a physical object or phenomenon.   Reducing the pitches to vibrations per second and decibels (even accounting for the development and decay of the sounds), rhythms to a series of durations, even if it were possible to reduce that comparatively simple (or at least brief) invention into a mathematical description of what is alleged to happen during the performance, it wouldn't suffice to describe any actual performance of the piece which would certainly not be restricted to or even match the "scientific" description of the piece.   Given that tuning an instrument is as much art as science, octaves being stretched, certain intervals tuned slightly differently by different tuners, not to mention the inevitable "imperfections" in the tuning by the time you actually get around to playing, even the pitch as vibrations per second wouldn't match the mathematical model.   All of those would certainly have to exist in the mind since that performance is what is experienced, what the idea consists of,  and those differences would only add to the necessity of there being different idea-structures for each and every performance.

The alleged physical mind model is so absurd when you think of it in terms of real human experience in human lives in real time as opposed to the frozen data, alleged to represent pinned and mounted specimens of experience.  I don't think you could seriously maintain that the experience of hearing two seven year olds sing Happy Birthday or one of them sing it twice could not but defeat any proposed model of the mind as a physical entity.   Would the song be the same "thing" when sung to their beloved mother or reluctantly sung to their creepy cousin?   I don't think I'd experience the same thing on either occasion.  I mean, the song exists in a rather more complex range of contexts than are included in a sciency concept of "Happy Birthday to You".   The "You" being sung to and how the singer felt about them during the singing is certainly relevant to the experience that the idea comprises.

Again a post that is getting long and very complicated.  That is because when you think about ideas as they really are instead of in the reductionist substitutes of those in  neuro-sci, cog-sci, materialist ideology or any other attempt to reduce it to a "thing" to study, you are forced to take into account the fact that actual experience is incredibly and unaccountably varied, beyond the reach of description and definition and yet as intimately experienced as any of the thousands of notes in a great piece of music such as BWV 903.  And you do experience every note.  You will hear a wrong one in one of those wildly moving notes in one of the long runs,  you'll know that from memory or from context and the perception that the relationship of the wrong note in that specific context alters the relationships of the other notes in real experience.  And you'll know it as soon as you hear it.  In a simpler piece, based on experience with other pieces from its time period, you can usually tell when someone hits the wrong note even if you never heard the piece before, though sometimes you have to check the score.  The length of time it takes to identify a wrong note that the brain couldn't have anticipated having to record is a fraction of a second.

To get something of an idea of what I'm talking about, go to Youtube and listen to a lot of different performances of the 14th or any of the inventions and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.  How varied those pieces are in the hands of different musicians, even the ones who play it well as opposed to badly, however you might take that.

*  Experienced listeners can often identify who is playing a piece either in a recording that they have never heard before or, even more strikingly, by players in live performance as they're walking down the hall outside of the practice rooms in a music department.  That would be based on a huge number of perceptions and associations which would, in each and every particular, have to have its own physical representation in the brian-only brain.

Note:  I anticipate someone coming up with the analogy of a digital recording as a model of what our brains are alleged to do.  But that doesn't work because a digital recording is just a record, it doesn't instantly make the associations, comparisons, judgments, evaluations, etc involved in the experience of a note and its place in the line of music being heard, in the harmony it may be in, its duration, its appropriateness or not in the context.  The record of a musical performance produced by a computer is nothing like the experience of listening to the performance or even the fiftieth hearing of the recording produced by the computer.  The fact that each listening to a recorded piece of music is, as well, informative and would have to be a novel series of ideas in the mind.  I wrote about that in regard to a specific recording years ago.   Here is a more recent performance, recorded live by Soprano Tony Arnold to Babbitt's recorded synthesizer accompaniment.  She did a pretty fine job.

I can also anticipate someone getting angry and asking me what my model of the brain is if the materialist one is to be rejected.  The idea that we must accept inadequate ideas that are obviously inadequate so as to be getting on with things is obviously inadequate, itself.  That all of this model making might be inadequate and inconvenience professionals wanting to model minds has no bearing on the truth or adequacy of those models.  That exposing those inadequacies might rather be a disaster for the materialist ideologues is even less of a reason to accept crappy ideas.  There's a name for what those ideologues experience in the wreckage of their model mind, it's called "tough luck".


  1. I was thinking about how little philosophers have to say (and so, scientists, who follow in the wake of philosophers, whether they admit it or not) about music, per se. Wittgenstein had the best comment: "It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?" But then, his brother was a concert pianist, so his relationship to music was not quite as distant as so many philosophers seem to have had.

    Still, music is never, AFAIK, used as an example of the workings of reason, cogitation, perception, consciousness, etc. Funny, that. Aesthetics in general (from the little reading I've done in the area) seems to focus on the plastic arts, never the performing ones. And there is such a vast difference between Bach and Shakespeare (yet both are "performing arts"), you'd think there'd be more commentary.


    The closest I can remember philosophers getting is dismissive: music is something you "get" or you "don't," and then it's compared to religion, and those who don't "get" either aren't really less than those who do because the former decide the ability really isn't that important after all, or they'd have it. So I suspect, more than anything, philosophers tend to be uninterested in music, or delight in it too much to subject it to the granular, atomistic analysis of Western thought.

    I think Plato pretty much tossed it out of his Republic. Not sure how music could be a "form", unless we resurrect the "music of the spheres," or imagine music as being closer to the ideal than any other human experience (that has happened, from time to time, in Western Civ.). But given the vaster variety of music than of, say, "chair" (and "chariness"), it's not an easy argument to support.

    I can't help but think we're back to Godel's incompleteness (much as I hate to risk overusing that theorem): that which we cannot axiomatize we simply discard. We can discuss music in very technical terms; but, as Wittgenstein said, how do we capture what it means to us? If we could, wouldn't we then discard music? Since we can't, where do we place music?

    Over there, in a box, because it's moulting (Monty Python).

  2. The logician Susanne Langer made about the best point I've ever read made by a non-musician when she pointed out that "musical form" wasn't a form it was an orderliness, it really does make a huge difference in how you conceive of music and analyze it when you stop trying to make it a concrete object. I've always been a skeptic of formal theory but I never knew why until I thought about what she said.

    I think the reason they don't want to deal with music as it actually is, reducing their "scientific study of music" to things like the unequally distributed ability called "perfect pitch" or some other, seriously limited aspect of the perception of sound. I don't have perfect pitch, though I had some rather good ear training. Lots of very great musicians and even composers have not had "PP" though others have, I think its study will tell us very, very little about music as it is actually made and experienced. The matter of improvisation, a form of composition in real time, would seem, to me, to be far more problematic for the "brain-only" materialist model of the mind in that an improviser won't know what the details of their piece will be. Even Bach, in his famous ability to improvise fugues on a theme given to him, even with his unparalleled mastery of counterpoint, would have had to make up the episodic parts of the fugue without being able to rely on that formal organization before hand.

    What the mind is, how it works, I haven't got a clue but I think I know that neither do the materialists. I think they might, by virtue of starting out with their conclusion, that it's origin is material, they might actually have far less of a clue than someone who admits that they don't know that does.

    1. They do start with a thesis and hammer round facts into the square holes.

      Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" was written, as I understand, in part to be a guide to tuning and otherwise setting up a clavier. "Well-tempered" meant (i don't know the original German Bach used) all the notes in proper relationship to each other, by which he couldn't have met vibrating at specific cycles (the concept didn't exist). Besides, I've always found music to be far more than notes at specific frequencies; otherwise what's the difference between a violin and a bassoon and a tympani?

      I like the idea of music as 'orderliness.' It captures pretty much the gamut of human musical efforts across the globe. I'm also mindful that humans are the only creatures on earth that seem to celebrate, as well as make music and make art in general. And yet, since the Enlightenment at least, and certainly since the Industrial Revolution, the most important part of being human is apparently whatever can be analogized to a mechanism, either mechanical or electronic.

      Nobody ever worries about creating a machine that will write better music than Bach, or create better art than Shakespeare or Picasso. Or enjoy life more than a young child, or an elderly couple still much in love, or....

      Well, you get the idea.