Klarinet Archive - Posting 000732.txt from 2002/05
From: Tony@-----.uk (Tony Pay)
Subj: Re: [kl] Synaesthesia and Science
Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 18:51:21 -0400
On Mon, 27 May 2002 15:03:21 -0700 (PDT), w7wright@-----.net said:
> Tony Pay wrote:
> > No-one claims that synaesthesia doesn't exist. *Science* certainly
> > doesn't. But equally, no-one (I hope) claims that synaesthesia is
> > essential for appreciating music.
> Synesthesia is relevant to the extent that it is (or is not) an
> exaggeration of an otherwise normal function.
I suppose that we have multiple representations of relationship. Take
'inclusion'. That has visual, aural, kinaesthetic, sexual, social,
political....dimensions. That we can understand it in all those ways
*means* that we understand it. As Marvin Minsky said in his paper,
'Music, Mind and Meaning':
"We all agree that to understand something, we must know what it means,
and that is about as far as we ever get. I think I know why that
happens. A thing or idea seems meaningful only when we have several
different ways to represent it -- different perspectives and different
associations. Then we can turn it around in our minds, so to speak:
however it seems at the moment, we can see it another way and we never
come to a full stop. In other words, we can 'think' about it. If there
were only one way to represent this thing or idea, we would not call
this representation thinking."
(This paper is worth reading by the way; the URL is:
But I need to read it again, because I've forgotten a lot of what it
Anyway, synaesthesia, as I understand it, is the unavoidable presence of
sensation in another modality. It's not just that we can represent a
musical relationship in another way -- it's that it shows up in that
other way whether we like it or not.
> That is, do non-aural pathways participate in processing (either
> listening or playing) music? If 'yes', then a severe case of
> synesthesia may supply clues about the underlying mechanism.
Well, what I'd say about that is that you 'understand' music when you
experience it as a continuously shifting nexus of relationships.
In the case of the relationship 'inclusion', one aspect of that might
be the unconscious perception, "this note is consonant with its
context", or "this modulation is part of a sequence". Someone who
doesn't 'understand' music doesn't experience that sort of thing.
Of course, you need to 'understand' relationship, and that presupposes
that you have multiple ways of representing it to yourself.
But we do have those ways. It's what being human is about.
So if that's what you mean by, "non-aural pathways participating in
processing...music", then I'd agree that they do. But that's not the
same as their being simultaneously stimulated, willy-nilly.
_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd Tony@-----.uk
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE http://classicalplus.gmn.com/artists
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