Re: Review of "The Selfish Meme" part II (3)

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Wed 29 Jun 2005 - 19:29:55 GMT

  • Next message: Kenneth Van Oost: "Review of The Selfish Meme"

    Ray Recchia wrote:
    > At 02:59 PM 6/21/2005, you wrote:
    >> There is a need for reconstruction in listening to notes played on an
    >> instrument which is absent when you have the score in front of you.
    >> When you try to play music that you've heard, without access to the
    >> score, you have to infer information like "the music is in 6/8 time",
    >> "there's a crescendo here", "it changes key there", "these notes are
    >> quavers". If you have the music in front of you there's no inference
    >> needed: the information is given to you. Furthermore, the inferences
    >> you make when you're listening to it might not be quite right: maybe
    >> there's no crescendo marked there, it's just this musician's
    >> interpretation of the piece; perhaps the music is actually in 4/4
    >> time, and these notes are really triplets.
    >> Of course you'd need to be familiar with all of these concepts in
    >> order to make sense of the score, just as you would in order to
    >> reconstruct the piece having heard it - but the key difference betwen
    >> the two cases is that the score contains all of the information you
    >> need, whereas the heard version does not.
    > I disagree. Now, I only took piano lessons for a few months, but I
    > remember that I had to be careful about which finger to use to play a
    > certain note, so that I could reach the next set of notes with the right
    > set of fingers. The score doesn't tell me which fingers to use. Yes,
    > an experienced pianist knows this, but it certainly isn't contained in
    > the score.
    > In fact, I would argue that there is actually more information contained
    > in the recording than in the score. A piece played exactly according to
    > a score can still sound wooden, while a piece played by an expert will
    > have enhancements about it that a discerning listener will be able to
    > pick up on and apply that they could never find in the score.

    You can use whichever fingers you like to play a piece of piano music, although some choices will make life easier for you. Information about the easiest option is information about how to play the piano, not about the piece of music. The score doesn't tell you how to play the piano, but if you can already play the piano then it tells you all you need to know about the music - unlike the recording, from which you can infer only incomplete and sometimes incorrect information about the music.

    On my account the score contains the memetic information, and the way in which it is played is part of the phenotypic effects of those memes - effects that can only be facilitated by an appropriately-skilled pianist. It is possible for another appropriately-skilled pianist to imitate the way in which the first one played the piece, but this seems to me to be straightforward behavioural imitation: just as the bluetit can learn where to apply its existing pecking skills by observing another bird pecking at a milk-bottle top, so the pianist can learn where to apply his existing playing skills (creating a staccato effect, varying the timing, or whatever) by observing another pianist using those particular skills at particular points in the piece.

    The information in the score remains the same no matter how individual pianists choose to interpret it. Analagously, genetic information remains the same but can exert varying effects depending on the environment. In both cases there is a process via which the information exerts its effects, and that process will influence the outcome just as the information itself will. I see the score as the information and the player as the process by which it exerts its effects: the played piece.

    > Here's another example:
    > This is the enabling language from a patent (actually one my brother was
    > the inventor of). It is the entire body of words that defines the legal
    > boundaries of the invention itself:
    > "What is claimed is:
    > 1. A method of forming an interconnection comprising:
    > depositing a masking material over a first conductive region of an
    > integrated circuit substrate;
    > depositing a dielectric material over the masking material;
    > forming a via through the dielectric material to expose the masking
    > material;
    > depositing a first photoimageable material in a portion of the via over
    > the exposed masking material such that the via is partially filled with
    > the first photoimageable material; after depositing said first
    > photoimageable material depositing a second photoimageable material and
    > patterning said second photoimageable material over the dielectric
    > material defining an area for a trench
    > after patterning the second photoimageable material, forming a trench in
    > the dielectric material over a portion of the via;
    > removing the first photoimageable material from the via;
    > extending the via through the masking material; and
    > depositing a conductive material in the via."
    > Could you make this invention now, or would you require some outside
    > information?\

    No, I couldn't make this invention now. I don't have the right skills and I don't understand all of the terms involved. If I did have those skills and that vocabulary then presumably the point of the patent's careful wording is precisely to ensure that I *could* make the invention without further information.

    Like the music, the information contained in this patent's words requires a process via which it can exert its effects. Not more information: a process or mechanism via which the existing information can produce its effects.


    (Apologies, following yours, for my delay in response - the children's Summer break is fast approaching, and with it an enforced break from writing; have been frantically trying to make up for anticipated lost time!)

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