I was listening to “Blending Quality” by Arts the Beatdoctor on the train today.


There’s statements within the track:

Essentially what happens is you can employ all sorts of combinations to make different colours out of the sound and it had a blending quality…..”

There’s a certain warmth to it, I think that’s one of the things that make it appealing…

Such tiny things will make my mind go off on a tangent and trigger things that I have seen or heard, well this statement in the song made me think about an article I read awhile back when I was living in Canada. The article was about an autistic savant called Daniel Tammet who perceives numbers as complex, multi-dimensional, coloured and textured shapes. Using these shapes he can visualize and remember the digits of the mathematical pi constant as rolling numerical panorama. In the article, “Thinking with Num6ers”, Tammet states:

Although the digits of pi are, mathematically speaking, strictly random, my internal representation of them was anything but – filled with rhythmic strokes and structures of light, colour and personality. From this random assembly of digits I was able to compose something like a visual song that meandered through every contour of my mind, through which I was able to hear the music of the numbers.”

Extraordinarily Tammet is able to perform complex calculations by segmenting and manipulating number shapes in his mind. Just like the syntactic computation in most people’s minds when segmenting and manipulating words and phrases into meaningful sentence, Tammet’s numerical abilities are as rapid, intuitive and unconscious.

I found this enticingly fascinating and such an unusual way of perceiving numbers. I had a conversation last week on Friday , someone was describing to me about a producer of electronic music who creates their music by means of a programming language. This seems to me the opposite to Tammet’s thought processes on numbers however similar at the same time. ‘Opposite’ in a sense that music and what it invokes can be intangible, ambiguous but can be created in a systematic, logical method. ‘Similar’ in a sense that the process for this is unconventional. It proves that we are capable of breaking away of the conventional, conditioned way of thinking.

I know this is slightly off the topic and is loosely connected to what I was thinking but I then went off on a tangent about why do some of us crave music so much and why do I need to be constantly listening to music. I was reading about a neurologist last year, Oliver Sacks who’s recent book “Musicphila: Tales of Music and the Brain” focuses on unusual cases having to do with music’s effects on the mind. There were a few cases mentioned where a person who suffered from Tourette’s syndrome found relief by playing on the drums, cases where music helped patients to recover, music aiding memory and included people suffering from aphasia (the inability to speak) could sometimes sing. There was an interesting question raised in the article “The mind reader” by Susan Kruglinski. The question was “Does the deep-rooted nature of music suggest that it is somehow essential to human survival, or at least to social survival?” In response to this question Sack includes:

This is a big question. I can only say that there is no culture without music. There are almost no individuals without music.”

And in every culture, music forms a social cement for dancing, singing. It’s invariably part of ritual and religion, and then there are things like work songs and martial music."

This makes me think that music could be partly instinctive. I think of music as ordered chaotic rhythmic wavelengths. I think that everything is made up of wavelengths, vibrations and it makes sense to see why we gravitate (crave) to harmonious, rhythmic vibrations. When I think back to thinking about perceiving music in a systematic logical manner as unconventional, it’s not so unconventional because music is made up of sounds, sounds are wavelengths that can be quantified and measured. The physical world is governed by physical law which is logical and quantifiable. Those who have studied music theory read music by symbols i.e. notes which are a small scale of our alphabet cdefgab, beats are also represented by different notes, minim, crotchets, quavers, semiquavers, semibreve..etc.. sounds distinguished between major, minor, treble, bass… how a sound is represented can be symbolized by p “piano” soft, f “forte” loud, hammer on, pull off… etc variations can be represented in different scales… it can go on…

We perceive music as beautiful, intangible, envoking emotion and logic as sterile, concrete and cold. Maybe we need to start steering away from the conventional thought process of segmenting things into logical, systematic and irrational, abstract and then maybe we can compose something extraordinary.
More information on: Daniel Tammet & Oliver Sacks

On Friday night I was sitting on the tram with a friend, we were going to Brunswick Street. Opposite me was a guy that looked in his mid 20s. The tram was becoming packed and there was a woman who looked in her 40s. The guy offered his seat to her. I’ve seen it many times on public transport, some people get offended because they think giving up their seat indicates they are old, actually it was only a couple of days ago I heard an older woman say to the younger woman who offered to give her seat that, “oh dear, you make me feel old.” Well, back to the lady on the tram, she just stood in silence, jaw dropped and her eyes looked like they were getting watery. Her face had a combination of sadness and offense. I actually felt sorry for her so I started asking her if she knew any good pubs and bars on Brunswick Street. She looked a little happy or maybe I just distracted her thoughts. Another incident where a seemingly good deed sort of backfired, I was attending a house inspection and many people turned up so you had people moving to and fro throughout the place. There was a couple in their 20s. I heard the guy murmur to himself "hmmm…. I wonder which way is north”. It sounded like he was thinking out aloud. I took out my iphone and showed him the compass and said “hey want to know which way is north?” He was surprised and excited as if I read his mind. He kept smiling and saying thank-you. His girlfriend came by and had the dirtiest look on her face. I thought about why we do all these (socially constructed) “good” actions, especially when sometimes they can backfire and are unappreciated.

I started thinking about a recent discussion I had with a friend about is “sharing really caring”. I tend to say that, more for the fun of it but I actually technically don't believe “sharing is caring”. I think sharing and caring is disguised as altruistic and is in fact selfish because most biological responses stem from some selfish reason. The main reason is preservation of the body, survival. Caring, sharing = acceptance = species compatibility = species survival. But then I dispute that perhaps the need for the survival as a whole species and not just survival of the vessel (i.e. the individual itself) can be altruistic. There are some theories, especially if you explore the field of quantum mechanics that state we are essentially energy, vibrations. I remember watching an interview with John Hagelin, PhD Professor of Physics. Hagelin mentions that we are fundamentally “waves of vibrations of this underlying unified super string field.” There are many people that share similar theories; there was a quote by Bill Hicks that “we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively.” Nevertheless, if you believe in this connectivity, then perhaps some species wants and desires could be mutually, intrinsically communicated, hence a mutual need of harmonious symbiosis which could be seen as altruistic. Or it could be due to unfortunately, as I mentioned in my later blog (Hack segment on whether junk food is as addictive as drugs or smoking) our “crude mechanisms that are easily outwitted," animalistic parts which we lack the wisdom to consistently outwit.

However, despite that “good” actions are perhaps derived from selfish reasons, or they may seem like a waste of time because they are unappreciated, sometimes taken advantage of. However, if you see the totality of things, corny as it may seem, I believe “good will eventually prevail.” I remember reading about “Tit for Tat” which is a strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma and it was used as an example to find an evolutionary stable strategy. It was found from “Tit for tat” that evolution often favors co-operative behavior hence “nice guys finish first”. Well, my personal view is people/organisms who take advantage of others, who find satisfaction in others degradation, who work on a hierarchal mentality, is just evidence of an un-evolved, primitive mind, hopefully these traits will be phased out as we evolve.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hagelin
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tit_for_tat

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