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Thinking without language?

kenneth Collins kpaulc at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 24 23:30:37 EST 1999


Peter T. Daniels wrote:

> Larisa Migachyov wrote:
> >
> > John Turnbull wrote:
> > >  In article <81f0om$esa$4 at nntp.Stanford.EDU>,
> > >  Larisa Migachyov <lvm at leland.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
> > >  >John Turnbull wrote:
> > >
> > >  >>  No, but I don't consider humming a familiar melody to be thinking.  I am
> > >  >>  likely to think verbally of the name of the tune though.
> > >  >
> > >  >What about performing a musical work?  Especially when playing in an
> > >  >ensemble without a conductor (quartet, quintet, whatever) - there is quite
> > >  >a lot of mental activity involved.  For me at least, most of the mental
> > >  >activity is not verbal - it is musical.  I am, for example, likely to
> > >  >think about how the notes I play fit in with the notes that everyone else
> > >  >is playing, or about how I need to play a little louder to bring out the
> > >  >melody, etc. - mostly, without words.
> > >  >
> > >  >And if you still say that performing a memorized work requires no thought
> > >  >- a contention that I will violently disagree with - what about
> > >  >improvising?  You would have to say that improvisation involves some kind
> > >  >of thinking.  And yet, even when I'm improvising together with some
> > >  >people, I don't think verbally.
> > >
> > >  As I mentioned in another recent post maybe I've been too restrictive in
> > >  my thoughts on thinking, equating it too much with reasoning.  I am
> > >  certainly not saying performing music doesn't require skill.  Not being
> > >  a musician I can't comment on the thought processes involved.  A couple
> > >  of questions though:
> > >
> > >       Would any kind of detailed thinking be a distraction to performing
> > >       well?  Are the thoughts more on a macro scale, and not on the micro
> > >       scale of which notes do I play, how do I play them, how would I
> > >       play louder?
> >
> > Well, I don't think that the notes enter into that; by then, the notes and
> > finger motions become close to automatic.  There are some verbal thoughts
> > of the "Oh no! I can't believe I missed that note!" variety - but in order
> > to play well, one has to feel the emotion that one is playing, and let the
> > music flow through one's mind.  I can't explain the kind of thinking
> > involved - but it is definitely thinking, and definitely wordless.  (and
> > not on the note level).
>
> Speaking of which, both piano-playing (anything-playing, probably) and
> really good typing involve finger movements that are much faster than
> can be accounted for by the speed of neural messages traveling all the
> way from the brain to the fingers.

i' Apologize for having to do so, but your assertion, above, is False. K. P. Collins

> No verbal thought there!
>
> > >       When improvising, do you ever surprise yourself?  The closest I've
> > >       come recently is sparring in the martial arts.  When I spar best
> > >       I've tagged my partner before I realize what I'm going to do.  That
> > >       to me indicates activity below the level of conscious thought.
> >
> > Hmm.  There's some of that - but I do that in verbal thinking too.  But,
> > when I have an improvising task such as, for example, "Start out with the
> > Russian national anthem in the key of C and get to the American national
> > anthem in the key of B flat in a reasonable amount of time, managing to
> > put in an Irish drinking song and some Bach along the way", quite a lot of
> > conscious thought is involved, and none of it is verbal.
> --
> Peter T. Daniels     grammatim at worldnet.att.net








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