Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chaos, Order, and Music

One of my favorite quotes about the epistemology of music comes from Dr Anthony Storr’s book, Music and the Mind (1992, p. 64):
Language does not emanate from the Earth, but from the human brain. So does music. The universality of music depends upon basic characteristics of the human mind; especially upon the need to impose order upon our experience… Languages are ways of ordering words; political systems are ways of ordering society; musical systems are ways of ordering sounds. What is universal is the human propensity to create order out of chaos.


MJP said...

William, nice line of thought.

I do however not agree. Humans don't bring order to anything. The order we think we see is a human illusion. Emerging order in complex adaptive systems is an intrinsic property of this universe. Thermodynamic chaos is just the counterbalance.

Musical order is actually in the music itself through the concept of harmonics and it is not created by humans, but as Poincare discovered it is those resonances that bring even order to planetary systems.

You will find the same in quantum physics. The most accurate theory (to 12 decimals) of particle interaction is Richard Feynmans Quantum Chromodynamics that deals exclusively with resonances.

Dr William J McKibbin said...

To think that order is found in the physics is naive. Order is formed in the conceptual spaces (or minds) of life forms (as in birds, who rely on conceptual content rather than symbolic or nominative information to navigate during flight). It is intuition (rather than symbolism and realism) that is the universal of merit. By the way, music is pure conception, as the listener need only to sense (rather than analyze) sound to enjoy it, and physics is mute on joy and other emotions. Call me a neo-Platonist, but the joy of music can only be explained intuitively. Hense, I side with Storr's views.

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