[Smt-talk] Gravity, up & down

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Mon Jul 30 06:17:39 PDT 2012

I should think the case for music space and spatialization codes being cultural rather than innate is pretty much confirmed by the sharp discrepancies in these between cultures. Even our great-grand-parental hellenic culture thought 'up' in music meant moving 'up' the neck--towards the player's head--and 'down' meant fingers heading toward the bridge. At the least, the language of spatial pitch meaning tends to be influenced by the physical means that music makers deploy to create it. Even when the means are that ultimate 'natural' instrument, the voice, different cultures conceive of the physical 
differences in wildly discrepant terms, e.g., thick/thin, wide/narrow, bright/dark. In short, this is a case where an evidently immanent physical reality cannot escape metaphorical translation by language, culture, and tradition.

MW MorseTrent UniversityPeterborough, Oshawa
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Gravity (Was: Car names)

    A quick comment. Seems like success in relating any kind of musical
    event to gravity depends on the answers to a couple of questions.
    First, whether descending intervals, stepwise lines, root
    progressions, etc., generally always create a sense of closure or at
    least a lessening of tension; and if so, are these style and culture
    independent? Second, if so, could there be other explanations for
    this phenomenon? Third, if some sort of relationship could be
    established between the physical law and gravity, what effect, if
    any, will Einstein's general theory of relativity have on musical
    perception, now or in some future time? Finally, is the concept of
    "up and down" in music universal and innate, or is it something we
    have learned by association?


    (For the record, my personal thinking is that the musical brain has
    learned to associate higher and lower pitches with up and down in
    space. Maybe because low sounds are associated with heavier objects,
    which seem to be tending downward more seriously than lighter
    objects (although they accelerate at the same rate when falling.))


    Christopher Bonds

    Wayne State College (retired)


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