Re: Top 'o the mornin' to you

From: William Benzon (
Date: Thu 09 Mar 2006 - 22:35:59 GMT

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    on 3/9/06 5:21 AM, Chris Taylor at wrote:

    > Right. I have a tricky one (and an old one, but for some reason
    > I was engrossed in it last night):
    > I have always considered myself quite lucky in being one of
    > these people with a jukebox in their head (I can run through
    > whole albums in some cases). Now I wouldn't claim that what I
    > imagine/recall is precisely what one might find on vinyl, but it
    > is pretty convincing, which is the crux...

    I'm a pretty skilled musician. I can work out things in my head and then use them in performance or notate them. I can even start something up in my mind's ear and then pick up my horn and continue playing it, in the same key. One can certainly work with imagined sounds musical sounds in ways comparable to working with real ones.

    > So am I literally 'hearing' it (could someone _very_ clever
    > ultimately rig a sensor to a speaker and hear it for real --
    > sort of 'playing' the (~)meme(plex), or am I remembering the
    > experience of hearing it (sort of an extended self-delusory
    > episode)?

    I doubt that some clever person you play it aloud through the right sensor as I don't think the brain "records" sounds the way recording tape (or a hard drive) does. But I don't think it's a matter of "remembering the experience" either, unless by that you mean something like "recreating the experience" in a "reduced" form.

    >Is this like what I 'see' which is in fact radically
    > different from the pattern of light impacting my retinas, having
    > been heavily processed, mapped onto objects and so on? I'm
    > pretty sure that auditory cortex will be lighting up, but we
    > couldn't really say why.
    > On a tangent, it strikes me that tunes make for meme amenable to
    > study as we shortcut most of the internal representational issues.

    Well, as you know, I don't believe that memes are in the head at all; they're in the world. Nils Wallen argued that the our brain "tracks" the dynamic form of music with a neurodynamics that is "isomorphic" to it. If so, then we don't need the brain-resident meme for any purpose at all. It's all there in the music itself.

    I devote a good deal of effort to these matters in Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture (Basic 2001) -- which has just been translated into Japanese.

    Bill Benzon

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