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Re: [xmca] Measuring culture

Greg, Larry:
I was hoping Larry would help out with the exact source of that quote from Merleau-Ponty. I think it is from one of his aesthetic essays; possibly the one on Cezanne? In any case, I am pretty sure that Merleau-Ponty is talking about painting. 
Piaget says that "the American question", the desire to make development faster, better, and more powerful, is naive. When we read Vygotsky we are forced to the conclusion that Vygotsky took the American question very seriously.
I think in the same way I consider the supposedly naive question about paintings, that is, "what does it all mean?" a completely reasonable one. My artist friends opine that this question asks them to render meaning in a language that is utterly foreign to painting, because furiously sleeping ideas are, as all good formalists know, quite colorless.
But to me they are very green. Asian painting has always been talky, or at least writey painting; painting and drawing were differentiated from a common source one can still see the close propinquity in Japanese anime.  
And even in benighted Europe, after the Renaissance, and certainly after the invention of chiaroscuro, painting becomes narrative and even grammatical, that is, articulated into field, mode, and tenor (as the Hallidayans would say). Even those great Dutch seascapes are about a kind of dialogue with nature.
I think I would say exactly the same thing about music. On the face of it, music is a pure formalism, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Merleau-Ponty's position that art must not simply be but also mean leads us to a rather anhedonic and even philistine dismissal of music. How to explain the keen, sometimes mystical and sometimes almost pre-orgasmic, pleasure I get from a passage of Mahler, or those scenes of Chinese opera that I occasionally burden our list with?
The first thing I notice when I look in my CD library (when I get over the trivial idea that a CD 'means' the music it encodes) is that a lot of the most supposedly primitive music I listen too is verbal: Thomas Tallis, African chants, Jejudo harvest songs, Korean children's play songs. 
So a little like painting it appears to have differentiated itself from a common source. Adorno says that the 'content' of music is dance; I think that is an overgeneralization, but it is clear that all of this music does have 'meaning' to be found in either work or play or in religious rites. But the second thing I notice in this early music is that the relationship with activity is really not grammaticized. 
Lately I've been looking at what used to be called holophrastic classroom languge (e.g. "Look!" "Listen!" "Repeat" from the teacher and "Wow" "Aha!" "Oh, no!" and "Ah--Sssaaa!" from the kids). I notice that a lot of this language puts in musical intonation rather than actual grammar (and in the case of the child's language, what segments we find are often palindromic--even expressions like "Hey, you!" and "Oh, yea!" tend to be pushme-pullyu like.) It seems to me that we can differentiate between the grammaticized language of the teacher (which is really a REASON and a CAUSE of action, and the non-grammaticized language of the kids (which is only RESULT and CONSEQUENCE of action). 
It seems to me that this early music is "talky" but it is talky in the same way: it is like the first egocentric speech that Vygotsky notes in "Tool and Sign", an accompaniment or even a result of action. At some time, though, music becomes a way of inspiring, coordinating and initiating action (and this is why Tolstoy decides it is immoral). 
To me, that is the precise moment when music, like painting, becomes verbal--musical feeling becomes verbalized and narrativized, and ultimately grammaticized into groups and phrases that behave very much like written language, and often include written language. So musical verbal thinking enters history: poetry becomes lyrical, and music begets opera.  
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies 
--- On Tue, 4/24/12, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com> wrote:

From: Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Measuring culture
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 4:19 PM

Going back a bit, could you provide more detail on the following:

"it started up precisely because we did not listen to Merleau-Ponty's
remark to the effect that structuralism's main crime was not valuing
structure ENOUGH to link it firmly enough to value"

Would love to hear/read as much as you'd be willing to write.
(M-P has come on the LCHC radar lately... and I like language).


On Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 2:53 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

> Larry and Rob:
> I wasn't really accusing Rob Lake of being a structuralist succubus--I
> think I would probably not accuse him of anything except an incurable
> affability, an attitude of ready openness towards people and ideas that I
> often wish I had more of.
> I was responding to the TED talk on N-grams, which seems to me an example
> of corpus linguistics redux: the behaviorist fallacy that with infinite
> instantiation we approach the idea of infinite potential.To me the idea
> that a very large number of instances is a "snapshot" of meaning potential
> denies future development; the future is not something that actually shows
> up in snapshots.
> Yes, I guess I see in Larry's Gadamer summary some overlap with what I had
> to say too, but it's really because the Gadamer stuff seems to me  to lap
> overmuch, like the Odyssey's shelving sea. I feel that I'm floundering, and
> I really need some examples of what it might mean to leap out of one's own
> historicity and above all some examples of why one might wish to do such a
> thing.
> Here are some examples that occurred to me just in the last twenty four
> hours. See if you agree that they are what Gadamer means. If so, I am more
> than interested.
>  I sometimes use children's counting rhymes to teach my teachers about
> metricity (they are bound to the written word and find it hard to 'feel'
> the stress-unstress patterns of English, and this is one of the things that
> makes it hard for them to grasp prepositions and articles as they bound by
> in the unstressed sound stream).
> My students and I came up with the following, which goes fetchingly with a
> painting by Delacroix and has a lot of the 'near rhymes" that Chinese poets
> love (Chinese poetry is rather more tonal than rhyming):
> "Will you race?" the lion said
> "I will bless the fastest beast"
> So the rabbit ran his best
> And the lion ate him last
> http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/eugene-delacroix/lion-devouring-a-rabbit-1856
> Now, try this:
> a) "Will you race? the lion said.
> b) "I will bless the fastest beast," the lion said.
> If you are a native speaker of English, like me, you probably have UP
> intonation when you say the reporting clause, viz. "the lion said" in a)
> but not in b). My wife, who is not a native speaker of English, does not
> intone EITHER reporting clause upwards.
> What we can say is that for me, and for most English speakers, the
> subjective viewpoint of the lion leaks into the reporting clause. Volosinov
> argues that this is quite a recent historical phenomenon--it's a product of
> the breakdown of the idea of the all-seeing narrator, and the birth of
> quasi-direct discourse (and also the extremely recent invention of the
> quotation mark).
> On the Seoul subway, the announcer uses (the Korean equivalents of)
>  "left" and "right" to indicate which door is opening when the subway
> reaches a stop. Since most of us are facing the side of the train rather
> than facing forward or back, this deictic is essentially ambiguous.
> However, it never causes any confusion whatsoever, because the hearers
> always adopt the point of view of the train driver, no matter how they are
> standing.
> I have observed the same response in allegedly "egocentric" children, who
> consider that left and right used by the teacher always assumes that the
> teacher is facing the children, even when this contradicts their own left
> and right and even when the teacher is facing the blackboard.
> Yesterday evening I sat down with a former supervisee who is studying
> gesture. Although I am no longer involved in research with children, I am
> still very interested in this topic, because I can see in the videos that
> he has brought that the children are using gestures for three quite
> specific purposes:
> a) They are using gesture to locate the stress--even when the word itself
> is absent because the child cannot recall it.
> b) They are using gesture to try to displace a misplaced stress. Because
> they are very used to reading, stresses come monotonously at the ends of
> sentences, and they use gesture to move the stress towards the new
> information in the sentence.
> c) They are using gestures to enact meaning--they are trying to replace
> meaningless 'beat' gestures with pointing gestures or metaphorics (e.g. the
> ubiquitous 'container' gesture we see all over the TED talk!)
> Mr. Kim, on the other hand, insists they are using gesture for one purpose
> only--to recall words that they cannot remember. When I ask him how this
> works, he gives me a quote from Ausubel and says that the sentence is
> stored in various places in the brain and the gesture helps to assemble it.
> I point out that there can be no empirical evidence whatsoever to back up
> such a claim (we cannot dissect the child's brain and recover pieces of
> sentence from it, and even if we could it would hardly explain how gesture
> might reassemble them). And there is actually quite a bit of evidence that
> contradicts it (e.g. the child says "Let's go picknee" instead of the
> correct "Let's go on a picnic" and one can hear another child whispering
> the wrong sentence to him just before he uses it).  But he will not look
> beyond his Ausubel.
> Frustrated, it occurs to me that Mr. Kim really has a EUROPEAN rather than
> an ASIAN idea of the social: families do grow out of the legal association
> of individuals, and nations from leagues of city states. So too do
> sentences grow out of the various functions of the human mind/brain. He
> will write a very good thesis, I am sure. But I am also very glad that I am
> no longer supervising it!
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> --- On Fri, 4/20/12, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> From: Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Measuring culture
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Friday, April 20, 2012, 6:08 AM
> David, Robert
> The following quote on narrative is also exploring similar terrain to
> Gadamer,
> Ubiquitous, stories have encouraged narratologists to expand their purview
> beyond the literary corpus and take the "narrative turn," embracing fields
> as diverse as psychology, sociology, ethnology, history, the law, corporate
> management, digital technology, and more. But whatever the universals
> common to all narratives, literary scholars, psychotherapists,
> sociologists, ethnologists, historians, jurists, advertising executives and
> AI experts view narrative in significantly different ways and as serving
> purposes that may be wholly at odds from one field to another. What, then,
> is the influence on narrative of genre – not necessarily in the sense of
> traditional literary scholarship, but possibly in that of "speech genres"
> (Bakhtin), those "relatively fixed forms" that bridge the gap between units
> of language or other signifying systems and discourse in its prolific
> manifestations? Then, too, is the question of narrative in non-verbal forms
> – the plastic arts and music – but also narrative in its pluri-medial
> forms.  Yet other questions arise. If, as Barthes stressed nearly half a
> century ago, narrative is a universal anthropological phenomenon, to what
> extent is it constitutive of culture? Can similar lines of inquiry be
> pursued with regard to *homo narrans*, the storytelling animal?
> In particular I want to amplify this section of the above quote
> *those "relatively fixed forms" that bridge the gap between units of
> language or other signifying systems and discourse in its prolific
> manifestations? Then, too, is the question of narrative in non-verbal forms
> – the plastic arts and music – but also narrative in its pluri-medial
> forms.*
> Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics invites us to enter  horizons of
> understanding which mediate  the *relatively fixed forms* [historically
> formed traditions] *in* which we dwell [and which constitute the
> prejudice-structures of ALL understanding].  Gadamer would caution us that
> in the *narrative turn* we don't become fixated on methodologies of
> understanding but rather focus on unveiling the interPLAY between the
> historically constituted prejudice-structures and the living hermeneutical
> situation of the present moment.
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