Thinking without language?
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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