Re: reading a book

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Mon 25 Apr 2005 - 19:50:16 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: reading a book"

    Dear Kate,

    > It appears that there are two elements to swing. First, there's a set
    > of information about it, which can be conveyed representationally in
    > the same way as any other information (that's what the trumpet-player
    > did; and that's what you must have been doing in your messages
    > because before I read them I had no real idea what sort of music
    > people meant by "swing"). It may not be possible to convey this
    > information in any simple, follow points 1-10 and you'll know
    > everything you need to know, sort of way, but it is nonetheless
    > possible to tell people some information about swing. So in that
    > sense there is a representational element here.

    Well, what the trumpet player said was a hint. While that triplet pattern is associated with swing, there are plenty of other swinging patterns (if you will), and, even more importantly, I could have played that pattern without swing. The performance as a whole might not have flopped, but I would have. Anyway, a hint is not a representation.

    > Secondly, there's an experiential element. This element you can't
    > get by talking *about* it. You have to *do* it. The talking can
    > help tell you how to do it, but until you actually give it a go you
    > won't get the feel of this style of music.
    > Now this second element is no different from what goes on when we
    > learn any new skill. You can listen to people talking about driving
    > skills for as long as you like, but not learn how to drive without
    > getting in a car. You can read all the books you like about
    > child-rearing, but nobody can learn how to be a parent without
    > raising an actual child. You can have A grades in Scripture and
    > Theology but not understand what it means to be a Christian until
    > you've experienced a relationship with God.

    I don't think we're talking about skill so much as sensibility. During the Swing Era there were millions of hipsters who knew what swing was, even if they could not play music, even if they could not describe it, and there were millions of squares who did not know what it was, even if they had heard it on the radio or in person many times.

    > So I'd agree with you that there's a memetic element to swing: that's
    > the informational (representational) bit. But there's also a
    > behavioural element - and crucially an emotional, responsive element
    > - which is not memetic but experiential.

    Well, I am not so sure that the informational bit you are talking about is representational rather than indicative. And even if it is descriptive, it is thin description, in Ryle's terms. Ethnological description aims to be thick, and that is what is missing, here.

    Anyway, if we had a thick description, we would say that it was memetic. Even without a thick description, I think that memes are involved besides those in a thin description: memes that are essential to swing, not just associated with it.



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