1 Kakree

Lookers-On See More Than Players Essay Definition


IN my previous talk, 'On a Certain Blindness,' I tried to make you feel how soaked and shot-through life is with values and meanings which we fail to realize because of our external and insensible point of view. The meanings are there for the others, but they are not there for us. There lies more than a mere interest of curious speculation in understanding this. It has the most tremendous practical importance. I wish that I could convince you of it as I feel it myself. It is the basis of all our tolerance, social, religious, and political. The forgetting of it lies at the root of every stupid and sanguinary mistake that rulers over subject-peoples make. The first thing to learn in intercourse with others is non-interference with their own peculiar ways of being happy, provided those ways do not assume to interfere by violence with ours. No one has insight into all the ideals. No one should presume to judge them off-hand. The pretension to dogmatize about them in each other is the root of most human injustices and cruelties, and the trait in human character most likely to make the angels weep.

Every Jack sees in his own particular Jill charms and perfections to the enchantment of which we stolid onlookers are stone-cold. And which has the superior view of the absolute truth, he or we? Which has the more vital insight into the nature of Jill's existence, as a fact? Is he in excess, being in this matter a maniac? or are we in defect, being victims of a pathological anæsthesia as regards Jill's magical importance? Surely the latter; surely to Jack are the profounder truths revealed; surely poor Jill's palpitating little life-throbs are among the wonders of creation, are worthy of this sympathetic interest; and it is to our shame that the rest of us cannot feel like Jack. For Jack realizes Jill concretely, and we do not. He struggles toward a union with her inner life, divining her feelings, anticipating her desires, understanding her limits as manfully as he can, and yet inadequately, too; for he is also afflicted with some blindness, even here. Whilst we, dead clods that we are, do not even seek after these things, but are contented that that portion of eternal fact named Jill should be for us as if it were not. Jill, who knows her inner life, knows that Jack's way of taking it— so importantly—is the true and serious way; and she responds to the truth in him by taking him truly and seriously, too. May the ancient blindness never wrap its clouds about either of them again! Where would any of us be, were there no one willing to know us as we really are or ready to repay us for our insight by making recognizant return? We ought, all of us, to realize each other in this intense, pathetic, and important way.

If you say that this is absurd, and that we cannot be in love with everyone at once, I merely point out to you that, as a matter of fact, certain persons do exist with an enormous capacity for friendship and for taking delight in other people's lives; and 'that such persons know more of truth than if their hearts were not so big. The vice of ordinary Jack and Jill affection is not its intensity, but its exclusions and its jealousies. Leave those out, and you see that the ideal I am holding up before you, however impracticable to-day, yet contains nothing intrinsically absurd.

We have unquestionably a great cloud-bank of ancestral blindness weighing down upon us, only transiently riven here and there by fitful revelations of the truth. It is vain to hope for this state of things to alter much. Our inner secrets must remain for the most part impenetrable by others, for beings as essentially practical as we are necessarily short of sight. But, if we cannot gain much positive insight into one another, cannot we at least use our sense of our own blindness to make us more cautious in going over the dark places? Cannot we escape some of those hideous ancestral intolerances; and cruelties, and positive reversals of the truth?

For the remainder of this hour I invite you to seek with me some principle to make our tolerance less chaotic. And, as I began my previous lecture by a personal reminiscence, I am going to ask your indulgence for a similar bit of egotism now.

A few summers ago I spent a happy week at the famous Assembly Grounds on the borders of Chautauqua Lake. The moment one treads that sacred enclosure, one feels one's self in an atmosphere of success. Sobriety and industry, intelligence and goodness, orderliness and ideality, prosperity and cheerfulness, pervade the air. It is a serious and studious picnic on a gigantic scale. Here you have a town of many thousands of inhabitants, beautifully laid out in the forest and drained, and equipped with means for satisfying all the necessary lower and most of the superfluous higher wants of man. You have a first-class college in full blast. You have magnificent music-a chorus of seven hundred voices, with possibly the most perfect open-air auditorium in the world. You have every sort of athletic exercise from sailing, rowing, swimming, bicycling, to the ball-field and the more artificial doings which the gymnasium affords. You have kindergartens and model secondary schools. You have general religious services and special club-houses for the several sects. You have perpetually running soda-water fountains, and daily popular lectures by distinguished men. You have the best of company, and yet no effort. You have no zymotic diseases, no poverty, no drunkenness, no crime, no police. You have culture, you have kindness, you have cheapness, you have equality, you have the best fruits of what mankind has fought and bled and striven for under the name of civilization for centuries. You have, in short, a foretaste of what human society might be, were it all in the light, with no suffering and no dark corners.

I went in curiosity for a day. I stayed for a week, held spell-bound by the charm and ease of everything, by the middle-class paradise, without a sin, without a victim, without a blot, without a tear.

And yet what was my own astonishment, on emerging into the dark and wicked world again, to catch myself quite unexpectedly and involuntarily saying: "Ouf! what a relief! Now for something primordial and savage, even though it were as bad as an Armenian massacre, to set the balance straight again. This order is too tame, this culture too second-rate, this goodness too uninspiring. This human drama without a villain or a pang; this community so refined that ice-cream soda-water is the utmost offering it can make to the brute animal in man; this city simmering in the tepid lakeside sun; this atrocious harmlessness of all things,-I cannot abide with them. Let me take my chances again in the big outside worldly wilderness with all its sins and sufferings. There are the heights and depths, the precipices and the steep ideals, the gleams of the awful and the infinite; and there is more hope and help a thousand times than in this dead level and quintessence of every mediocrity."

Such was the sudden right-about-face performed for me by my lawless fancy! There had been spread before me the realization—on a small, sample scale of course—of all the ideals for which our civilization has been striving: security, intelligence, humanity, and order; and here was the instinctive hostile reaction, not of the natural man, but of a so-called cultivated man upon such a Utopia. There seemed thus to be a self-contradiction and paradox somewhere, which I, as a professor drawing a full salary, was in duty bound to unravel and explain, if I could.

So I meditated. And, first of all, I asked myself what the thing was that was so lacking in this Sabbatical city, and the lack of which kept one forever falling short of the higher sort of contentment. And I soon recognized that it was the element that gives to the wicked outer world all its moral style, expressiveness and picturesqueness,—the element of precipitousness, so to call it, of strength and strenuousness, intensity and danger. What excites and interests the looker-on at life, what the romances and the statues celebrate and the grim civic monuments remind us of, is the everlasting battle of the powers of light with those of darkness; with heroism, reduced to its bare chance, yet ever and anon snatching victory from the jaws of death. But in this unspeakable Chautauqua there was no potentiality of death in sight anywhere, and no point of the compass visible from which danger might possibly appear. The ideal was so completely victorious already that no sign of any previous battle remained, the place just resting on its oars. But what our human emotions seem to require is the sight of the struggle going on. The moment the fruits are being merely eaten, things become ignoble. Sweat and effort, human nature strained to its uttermost and on the rack, yet getting through alive, and then turning its back on its success to pursue another more rare and arduous still-this is the sort of thing the presence of which inspires us, and the reality of which it seems to be the function of all the higher forms of literature and fine art to bring home to us and suggest. At Chautauqua there were no racks, even in the place's historical museum; and no sweat, except possibly the gentle moisture on the brow of some lecturer, or on the sides of some player in the ball-field.

Such absence of human nature in extremis anywhere seemed, then, a sufficient explanation for Chautauqua's flatness and lack of zest.

But was not this a paradox well calculated to fill one with dismay? It looks indeed, thought 1, as if the romantic idealists with their pessimism about our civilization were, after all, quite right. An irremediable flatness is coming over the world. Bourgeoisie and mediocrity, church sociables and teachers' conventions, are taking the place of the old heights and depths and romantic chiaroscuro. And, to get human life in its wild intensity, we must in future turn more and more away from the actual, and forget it, if we can, in the romancer's or the poet's pages. The whole world, delightful and sinful as it may still appear for a moment to one just escaped from the Chautauquan enclosure, is nevertheless obeying more and more just those ideals that are sure to make of it in the end a mere Chautauqua Assembly on an enormous scale. Was im Gesang soll leben muss im Leben untergehn. Even now, in our own country, correctness, fairness, and compromise for every small advantage are crowding out all other qualities. The higher heroisms and the old rare flavors are passing out of life.*

With these thoughts in my mind, I was speeding with the train toward Buffalo, when, near that city, the sight of a workman doing something on the dizzy edge of a sky-scaling iron construction brought me to my senses very suddenly. And now I perceived, by a flash of insight, that I had been steeping myself in pure ancestral blindness, and looking at life with the eyes of a remote spectator. Wishing for heroism and the spectacle of human nature on the rack, I had never noticed the great fields of heroism lying round about me, I had failed to see it present and alive. I could only think of it as dead and embalmed, labelled and costumed, as it is in the pages of romance. And yet there it was before me in the daily lives of the laboring classes. Not in clanging fights and desperate marches only is heroism to be looked for, but on every railway bridge and fire-proof building that is going up to-day. On freight-trains, on the decks of vessels, in cattleyards and mines, on lumber-rafts, among the firemen and the policemen, the demand for courage is incessant; and the supply never fails. There, every day of the year somewhere, is human nature in extremis for you. And wherever a scythe, an axe, a pick, or a shovel is wielded, you have it sweating and aching and with its powers of patient endurance racked to the utmost under the length of hours of the strain.

As I awoke to all this unidealized heroic life around me, the scales seemed to fall from my eyes; and a wave of sympathy greater than anything I had ever before felt with the common life of common men began to fill my soul. It began to seem as if virtue with horny hands and dirty skin were the only virtue genuine and vital enough to take account of. Every other virtue poses; none is absolutely unconscious and simple, and unexpectant of decoration or recognition, like this. These are our soldiers, thought I., these our sustainers, these the very parents of our life.

Many years ago, when in Vienna, I had had a similar feeling of awe and reverence in looking at the peasant women, in from the country on their business at the market for the day. Old hags many of them were, dried and brown and wrinkled, kerchiefed and short-petticoated, with thick wool stockings on their bony shanks, stumping through the glittering thoroughfares, looking neither to the right nor the left, bent on duty, envying nothing, humble-hearted, remote;—and yet at bottom, when you came to think of it, bearing the whole fabric of the splendors and corruptions of that city on their laborious backs. For where would any of it have been without their unremitting, unrewarded labor in the fields? And so with us: not to our generals and poets, I thought, but to the Italian and Hungarian laborers in the Subway, rather, ought the monuments of gratitude and reverence of a city like Boston to be reared.

If any of you have been readers of Tolstoï, you will see that I passed into a vein of feeling similar to his, with its abhorrence of all that conventionally passes for distinguished, and its exclusive deification of the bravery, patience, kindliness, and dumbness of the unconscious natural man.

Where now is our Tolstoï, I said, to bring the truth of all this home to our American bosoms, fill us with a better insight, and wean us away from that spurious literary romanticism on which our wretched culture-as it calls itself-is fed? Divinity lies all about us, and culture is too bide-bound to even suspect the fact. Could a Howells or a Kipling be enlisted in this mission? or are they still too deep in the ancestral blindness, and not humane enough for the inner joy and meaning of the laborer's existence to be really revealed? Must we wait for some one born and bred and living as a laborer himself, but who, by grace of Heaven, shall also find a literary voice?

And there I rested on that day, with a sense of widening of vision, and with what it is surely fair to call an increase of religious insight into life. In God's eyes the differences of social position, of intellect, of culture, of cleanliness, of dress, which different men exhibit? and all the other rarities and exceptions on which they so fantastically pin their pride, must be so small as practically quite to vanish; and all that should remain is the common fact that here we are, a countless multitude of vessels of life, each of us pent in to peculiar difficulties, with which we must severally struggle by using whatever of fortitude and goodness we can summon up. The exercise of the courage, patience, and kindness, must be the significant portion of the whole business; and the distinctions of position can only be a manner of diversifying the phenomenal surface upon which these underground virtues may manifest their effects. At this rate, the deepest human life is everywhere, is eternal. And, if any human attributes exist only in particular individuals, they must belong to the mere trapping and decoration of the surface-show.

Thus are men's lives levelled up as well as levelled down,—levelled up in their common inner meaning, levelled down in their outer gloriousness and show. Yet always, we must confess, this levelling insight tends to be obscured again; and always the ancestral blindness returns and wraps us up, so that we end once more by thinking that creation can be for no other purpose than to develop remarkable situations and conventional distinctions and merits. And then always some new leveller in the shape of a religious prophet has to arise—the Buddha, the Christ, or some Saint Francis, some Rousseau or Tolstoï—to redispel our blindness. Yet, little by little, there comes some stable gain; for the world does get more humane, and the religion of democracy tends toward permanent increase.

This, as I said, became for a time my conviction, and gave me great content. I have put the matter into the form of a personal reminiscence, so that I might lead you into it more directly and completely, and so save time. But now I am going to discuss the rest of it with you in a more impersonal way.

Tolstoï's levelling philosophy began long before be bad the crisis of melancholy commemorated in that wonderful document of his entitled 'My Confession,' which led the way to his more specifically religious works. In his masterpiece 'War and Peace,'—assuredly the greatest of human novels,—the rôle of the spiritual hero is given to a poor little soldier named Karataïeff, so helpful, so cheerful, and so devout that, in spite of his ignorance and filthiness, the sight of him opens the heavens, which have been closed, to the mind of the principal character of the book; and his example evidently is meant by Tolstoï to let God into the world again for the reader. Poor little Karataïeff is taken prisoner by the French; and, when too exhausted by hardship and fever to march, is shot as other prisoners were in the famous retreat from Moscow. The last view one gets of him is his little figure leaning against a white birch-tree, and uncomplainingly awaiting the end.

"The more," writes Tolstoï in the work 'My Confession,' "the more I examined the life of these laboring folks, the more persuaded I became that they veritably have faith, and get from it alone the sense and the possibility of life. . . . Contrariwise to those of our own class, who protest against destiny and grow indignant at its rigor, these people receive maladies and misfortunes without revolt, without opposition, and with a firm and tranquil confidence that all had to be like that, could not be otherwise, and that it is all right so. . . . The more we live by our intellect, the less we understand the meaning of life. We see only a cruel jest in suffering and death, whereas these people live, suffer, and draw near to death with tranquillity, and oftener than not with joy. . . . There are enormous multitudes of them happy with the most perfect happiness, although deprived of what for us is the sole of good of life. Those who understand life's meaning, and know how to live and die thus, are to be counted not by twos, threes, tens, but by hundreds, thousands, millions. They labor quietly, endure privations and pains, live and die, and throughout everything see the good without seeing the vanity. I had to love these people. The more I entered into their life, the more I loved them; and the more it became possible for me to live, too. It came about not only that the life of our society, of the learned and of the rich, disgusted me-more than that, it lost all semblance of meaning in my eyes. All our actions, our deliberations, our sciences, our arts, all appeared to me with a new significance. I understood that these things might be charming pastimes, but that one need seek in them no depth, whereas the life of the hardworking populace, of that multitude of human beings who really contribute to existence, appeared to me in its true light. I understood that there veritably is life, that the meaning which life there receives is the truth; and I accepted it."**

In a similar way does Stevenson appeal to our piety toward the elemental virtue of mankind.

"What a wonderful thing," he writes,*** "is this Man! How surprising are his attributes! Poor soul, here for so little, cast among so many hardships, savagely surrounded, savagely descended, irremediably condemned to prey upon his fellow-lives,—who should have blamed him, had be been of a piece with his destiny and a being merely barbarous? . . . [Yet] it matters not where we look, under what climate we observe him, in what stage of society, in what depth of ignorance, burdened with what erroneous morality; in ships at sea, a man inured to hardship and vile pleasures, his brightest hope a fiddle in a tavern, and a bedizened trull who sells herself to rob him, and be, for all that, simple, innocent, cheerful, kindly like a child, constant to toil, brave to drown, for others; . . . in the slums of cities, moving among indifferent millions to mechanical employments, without hope of change in the future, with scarce a pleasure in the present, and yet true to his virtues, honest up to his lights, kind to his neighbors, tempted perhaps in vain by the bright gin-palace, . . . often repaying the world's scorn with service, often standing firm upon a scruple; . . . everywhere some virtue cherished or affected, everywhere some decency of thought and courage, everywhere the ensign of man's ineffectual goodness,—ah! if I could show you this! If I could show you these men and women all the world over, in every stage of history, under every abuse of error, under every circumstance of failure, without hope, without help, without thanks, still obscurely fighting the lost fight of virtue, still clinging to some rag of honor, the poor jewel of their souls."

All this is as true as it is splendid, and terribly do we need our Tolstoïs and Stevensons to keep our sense for it alive. Yet you remember the Irishman who, when asked, "Is not one man as good as another?" replied, "Yes; and a great deal better, too!" Similarly (it seems to me) does Tolstoï overcorrect our social prejudices, when he makes his love of the peasant so exclusive, and hardens his heart toward the educated man as absolutely as he does. Grant that at Chautauqua there was little moral effort, little sweat or muscular strain in view. Still, deep down in the souls of the participants we may be sure that something of the sort was hid, some inner stress, some vital virtue not found wanting when required. And, after all, the question recurs, and forces itself upon us, Is it so certain that the surroundings and circumstances of the virtue do make so little difference in the importance of the result? Is the functional utility, the worth to the universe of a certain definite amount of courage, kindliness, and patience, no greater if the possessor of these virtues is in an educated situation, working out far-reaching tasks, than if he be an illiterate nobody, hewing wood and drawing water, just to keep himself alive? Tolstoï's philosophy, deeply enlightening though it certainly is, remains a false abstraction. It savors too much of that Oriental pessimism and nihilism of his, which declares the whole phenomenal world and its facts and their distinctions to be a cunning fraud.

A mere bare fraud is just what our Western common sense will never believe the phenomenal world to be. It admits fully that the inner joys and virtues are the essential part of life's business, but it is sure that some positive part is also played by the adjuncts of the show. If it is idiotic in romanticism to recognize the heroic only when it sees it labelled and dressed-up in books, it is really just as idiotic to see it only in the dirty boots and sweaty shirt of some one in the fields. It is with us really under every disguise: at Chautauqua; here in your college; in the stock-yards and on the freight-trains; and in the czar of Russia's court. But, instinctively, we make a combination of two things in judging the total significance of a human being. We feel it to be some sort of a product (if such a product only could be calculated) of his inner virtue and his outer place,—neither singly taken, but both conjoined. If the outer differences had no meaning for life, why indeed should all this immense variety of them exist? They must be significant elements of the world as well.

Just test Tolstoï's deification of the mere manual laborer by the facts. This is what Mr. Walter Wyckoff, after working as an unskilled laborer in the demolition of some buildings at West Point, writes of the spiritual condition of the class of men to which he temporarily chose to belong:—

"The salient features of our condition are plain enough. We are grown men, and are without a trade. In the labor-market we stand ready to sell to the highest bidder our mere muscular strength for so many hours each day. We are thus in the lowest grade of labor. And, selling our muscular strength in the open market for what it will bring, we sell it under peculiar conditions. It is all the capital that we have. We have no reserve means of subsistence, and cannot, therefore, stand off for a 'reserve price.' We sell under the necessity of satisfying imminent hunger. Broadly speaking, we must sell our labor or starve; and, as hunger is a matter of a few hours, and we have no other way of meeting this need, we must sell at once for what the market offers for our labor.

"Our employer is buying labor in a dear market, and be will certainly get from us as much work as he can at the price. The gang-boss is secured for this purpose, and thoroughly does he know his business. He has sole command of us. He never saw us before, and he will discharge us all when the debris is cleared away. In the mean time he must get from us, if he can, the utmost of physical labor which we, individually and collectively, are capable of. If be should drive some of us to exhaustion, and we should not be able to continue at work, he would not be the loser; for the market would soon supply him with others to take our places.

"We are ignorant men, but so much we clearly see,—that we have sold our labor where we could sell it dearest, and our employer has bought it where be could buy it cheapest. He has paid high, and be must get all the labor that he can; and, by a strong instinct which possesses us, we shall part with as little as we can. From work like ours there seems to us to have been eliminated every element which constitutes the nobility of labor. We feel no personal pride in its progress, and no community of interest with our employer. There is none of the joy of responsibility, none of the sense of achievement, only the dull monotony of grinding toil, with the longing for the signal to quit work, and for our wages at the end.

"And being what we are, the dregs of the labor-market, and having no certainty of permanent employment, and no organization among ourselves, we must expect to work under the watchful eye of a gang-boss, and be driven, like the wage-slaves that we are, through our tasks.

"All this is to tell us, in effect, that our lives are hard, barren, hopeless lives."

And such bard, barren, hopeless lives, surely, are not lives in which one ought to be willing permanently to remain. And why is this so? Is it because they are so dirty? Well, Nansen grew a great deal dirtier on his polar expedition; and we think none the worse of his life for that. Is it the insensibility? Our soldiers have to grow vastly more insensible, and we extol them to the skies. Is it the poverty? Poverty has been reckoned the crowning beauty of many a heroic career. Is it the slavery to a task, the loss of finer pleasures? Such slavery and loss are of the very essence of the higher fortitude, and are always counted to its credit,-read the records of missionary devotion all over the world. It is not any one of these things, then, taken by itself,-no, nor all of them together,-that make such a life undesirable. A man might in truth live like an unskilled laborer, and do the work of one, and yet count as one of the noblest of God's creatures. Quite possibly there were some such persons in the gang that our author describes; but the current of their souls ran underground; and he was too steeped in the ancestral blindness to discern it.

If there were any such morally exceptional individuals, however, what made them different from the rest? It can only have been this,—that their souls worked and endured in obedience to some inner ideal, while their comrades were not actuated by anything worthy of that name. These ideals of other lives are among those secrets that we can almost never penetrate, although something about the man may often tell us when they are there. In Mr. Wyckoff's own case we know exactly what the self-imposed ideal was. Partly he had stumped himself, as the boys say, to carry through a strenuous achievement; but mainly he wished to enlarge his sympathetic insight into fellow-lives. For this his sweat and toil acquire a certain heroic significance, and make us accord to him exceptional esteem. But it is easy to imagine his fellows with various other ideals. To say nothing of wives and babies, one may have been a convert of the Salvation Army, and bad a nightingale singing of expiation and forgiveness in his heart all the while be labored. Or there might have been an apostle like Tolstoï himself, or his compatriot Bondaïeff, in the gang, voluntarily embracing labor as their religious mission. Class-loyalty was undoubtedly an ideal with many. And who knows how much of that higher manliness of poverty, of which Phillips Brooks has spoken so penetratingly, was or was not present in that gang?

"A rugged, barren land," says Phillips Brooks, "is poverty to live in,—a land where I am thankful very often if I can get a berry or a root to cat. But living in it really, letting it bear witness to me of itself, not dishonoring it all the time by judging it after the standard of the other lands, gradually there come out its qualities. Behold! no land like this barren and naked land of poverty could show the moral geology of the world. See how the hard ribs . . . stand out strong and solid. No life like poverty could so get one to the heart of things and make men know their meaning, could so let us feel life and the world with all the soft cushions stripped off and thrown away. . . . Poverty makes men come very near each other,, and recognize each other's human hearts; and poverty, highest and best of all, demands and cries out for faith in God. . . . I know how superficial and unfeeling, how like mere mockery, words in praise of poverty may seem. . . . But I am sure that the poor man's dignity and freedom, his self-respect and energy, depend upon his cordial knowledge that his poverty is a true region and kind of life, with its own chances of character, its own springs of happiness and revelations of God. Let him resist the characterlessness which often goes with being poor. Let him insist on respecting the condition where he lives. Let him learn to love it, so that by and by, [if] he grows rich, he shall go out of the low door of the old familiar poverty with a true pang of regret, and with a true honor for the narrow home in which he has lived so long."****

The barrenness and ignobleness of the more usual laborer's life consist in the fact that it is moved by no such ideal inner springs. The backache, the long hours, the danger, are patiently endured-for what? To gain a quid of tobacco, a glass of beer, a cup of coffee, a meal, and a bed, and to begin again the next day and shirk as much as one can. This really is why we raise no monument to the laborers in the Subway, even though they be out conscripts, and even though after a fashion our city is indeed based upon their patient hearts and enduring backs and shoulders. And this is why we do raise monuments to our soldiers, whose outward conditions were even brutaller still. The soldiers are supposed to have followed an ideal, and the laborers are supposed to have followed none.

You see, my friends, how the plot now thickens; and how strangely the complexities of this wonderful human nature of ours begin to develop under our hands. We have seen the blindness and deadness to each other which are our natural inheritance; and, in spite of them, ,ve have been led to acknowledge an inner meaning which passeth show, and which may be present in the lives of others where we least descry it. And now we are led to say that such inner meaning can be complete and valid for us also, only when the inner joy, courage, and endurance are joined with an ideal.

But what, exactly, do we mean by an ideal? Can we give no definite account of such a word?

To a certain extent we can. An ideal, for instance, must be something intellectually conceived, something of which we are not unconscious, if we 'have it; and it must carry with it that sort of outlook, uplift, and brightness that go with all intellectual facts. Secondly, there must be novelty in an ideal,-novelty at least for him whom the ideal grasps. Sodden routine is incompatible with ideality, although what is sodden routine for one person may be ideal novelty for another. This shows that there is nothing absolutely ideal: ideals are relative to the lives that entertain them. To keep out of the gutter is for us here no part of consciousness at all, yet for many of our brethren it is the most legitimately engrossing of ideals.

Now, taken nakedly, abstractly, and immediately, you see that mere ideals are the cheapest things in life. Everybody has them in some shape or other, personal or general, sound or mistaken, low or high; and the most worthless sentimentalists and dreamers, drunkards, shirks and verse-makers, who never show a grain of effort, courage, or endurance, possibly have them on the most copious scale. Education, enlarging as it does our horizon and perspective, is a means of multiplying our ideals, of bringing new ones into view. And your college professor, with a starched shirt and spectacles, would, if a stock of ideals were all alone by itself enough to render a life significant, be the most absolutely and deeply significant of men. Tolstoï would be completely blind in despising him for a prig, a pedant and a parody; and all our new insight into the divinity of muscular labor would be altogether off the track of truth.

But such consequences as this, you instinctively feel, are erroneous. The more ideals a man has, the more contemptible, on the whole, do you continue to deem him, if the matter ends there for him, and if none of the laboring man's virtues are called into action on his part,—no courage shown, no privations undergone, no dirt or scars contracted in the attempt to get them realized. It is quite obvious that something more than the mere possession of ideals is required to make a life significant in any sense that claims the spectator's admiration. Inner joy, to be sure, it may have, with its ideals; but that is its own private sentimental matter. To extort from us, outsiders as we are, with our own ideals to look after, the tribute of our grudging recognition, it must back its ideal visions with what the laborers have, the sterner stuff of manly virtue; it must multiply their sentimental surface by the dimension of the active will, if we are to have depth, if we are to have anything cubical and solid in the way of character.

The significance of a human life for communicable and publicly recognizable purposes is thus the offspring of a marriage of two different parents, either of whom alone is barren. The ideals taken by themselves give no reality, the virtues by themselves no novelty. And let the orientalists and pessimists say what they will, the thing of deepest—or, at any rate, of comparatively deepest—significance in life does seem to be its character of progress, or that strange union of reality with ideal novelty which it continues from one moment to another to present. To recognize ideal novelty is the task of what we call intelligence. Not every one's intelligence can tell which novelties are ideal. For many the ideal thing will always seem to cling still to the older more familiar good. In this case character, though not significant' totally, may be still significant pathetically. So, if we are to choose which is the more essential factor of human character, the fighting virtue or the intellectual breadth, we must side with Tolstoï, and choose that simple faithfulness to his light or darkness which any common unintellectual man can show.

But, with all this beating and tacking on my part, I fear you take me to be reaching a confused result. I seem to be just taking things up and dropping them again. First I took up Chautauqua, and dropped that; then Tolstoï and the heroism of common toil, and dropped them; finally, I took up ideals, and seem now almost dropping those. But please observe in what sense it is that I drop them. It is when they pretend singly to redeem life from insignificance. Culture and refinement all alone are not enough to do so. Ideal aspirations are not enough, when uncombined with pluck and will. But neither are pluck and will, dogged endurance and insensibility to danger enough, when taken all alone. There must be some sort of fusion, some chemical combination among these principles, for a life objectively and thoroughly significant to result.

Of course, this is a somewhat vague conclusion. But in a question of significance, of worth, like this, conclusions can never be precise. The answer of appreciation, of sentiment, is always a more or a less, a balance struck by sympathy, insight, and good will. But it is an answer, all the same ' a real conclusion. And, in the course of getting it, it seems to me that our eyes have been opened to many important things. Some of you are, perhaps, more livingly aware than you were an hour ago of the depths of worth that lie around you, hid in alien lives. And, when you -ask bow much sympathy you ought to bestow, although the amount is, truly enough, a matter of ideal on your own part, yet in this notion of the combination of ideals with active virtues you have a rough standard for shaping your decision. In any case, your imagination is extended. You divine in the world about you matter for a little more humility on your own part, and tolerance, reverence, and love for others; and you gain a certain inner joyfulness at the increased importance of our common life. Such joyfulness is a religious inspiration and an element of spiritual health, and worth more than large amounts of that sort of technical and accurate information which we professors are supposed to be able to impart.

To show the sort of thing I mean by these words, I will just make one brief practical illustration, and then close.

We are suffering to-day in America from what is called the labor-question; and., when you go out into the world, you will each and all of you be caught up in its perplexities. I use the brief term labor-question to cover all sorts of anarchistic discontents and socialistic projects, and the conservative resistances which they provoke. So far as this conflict is unhealthy and regrettable,—and I think it is so only to a limited extent,—the unhealthiness consists solely in the fact that one-half of our fellow countrymen remain entirely blind to the internal significance of the lives of the other half. They miss the joys and sorrows, they fail to feel the moral virtue, and they do not guess the presence of the intellectual ideals. They are at cross-purposes all along the line, regarding each other as they might regard a set of dangerously gesticulating automata, or, if they seek to get at the inner motivation, making the most horrible mistakes. Often all that the poor man can think of in the rich man is a cowardly greediness for safety, luxury, and effeminacy, and a boundless affectation. What he is, is not a human being, but a pocket-book, a bank-account. And a similar greediness, turned by disappointment into envy, is all that many rich men can see in the state of mind of the dissatisfied poor. And, if the rich man begins to do the sentimental act over the poor man, what senseless blunders does he make, pitying him for just those very duties and those very immunities which, rightly taken, are the condition of his most abiding and characteristic joys! Each, in short, ignores the fact that happiness and unhappiness and significance are a vital mystery; each pins them absolutely on some ridiculous feature of the external situation; and everybody remains outside of everybody else's sight.

Society has, with all this, undoubtedly got to pass toward some newer and better equilibrium, and the distribution of wealth has doubtless slowly got to change: such changes have always happened, and will happen to the end of time. But if, after all that I have said, any of you expect that they will make any genuine vital difference on a large scale, to the lives of our descendants, you will have missed the significance of my entire lecture. The solid meaning of life is always the same eternal thing,— the marriage, namely, of some unhabitual ideal, however special, with some fidelity, courage, and endurance; with some man 2 s or woman 's pains.—And, whatever or wherever life may be, there will always be the chance for that marriage to take place.

Fitz-James Stephen wrote many years ago words to this effect more eloquent than any I can speak: "The 'Great Eastern,' or some of her successors," he said, "will perhaps defy the roll of the Atlantic, and cross the seas without allowing their passengers to feel that they have left the firm land. The voyage from the cradle to the grave may come to be performed with similar facility. Progress and science may perhaps enable untold millions to live and die without a care, without a pang, without an anxiety. They will have a pleasant passage and plenty of brilliant conversation. They will wonder that men ever believed at all in clanging fights and blazing towns and sinking ships and praying bands; and, when they come to the end of their course, they will go their way, and the place thereof will know them no more. But it seems unlikely that they will have such a knowledge of the great ocean on which they sail, with its storms and wrecks, its currents and icebergs, its huge waves and mighty winds, as those who battled with it for years together in the little craft, which, if they had few other merits, brought those who navigated them full into the presence of time and eternity, their maker and themselves, and forced them to have some definite view of their relations to them and to each other."*****

In this solid and tridimensional sense, so to call it, those philosophers are right who contend that the world is a standing thing, with no progress, no real history. The changing conditions of history touch only the surface of the show. The altered equilibriums and redistributions only diversify our opportunities and open chances to us for new ideals. But, with each new ideal that comes into life, the chance for a life based on some old ideal will vanish; and he would needs be a presumptuous calculator who should with confidence say that the total sum of significances is positively and absolutely greater at any one epoch than at any other of the world.

I am speaking broadly, I know, and omitting to consider certain qualifications in which I myself believe. But one can only make one point in one lecture, and I shall be well content if I have brought my point home to you this evening in even a slight degree. There are compensations: and no outward changes of condition in life can keep the nightingale of its eternal meaning from singing in all sorts of different men's hearts. That is the main fact to remember. If we could not only admit it with our lips, but really and truly believe it, how our convulsive insistencies, how our antipathies and dreads of each other, would soften down! If the poor and the rich could look at each other in this way, sub specie æternatis, bow gentle would grow their disputes! what tolerance and good humor, what willingness to live and let live, would come into the world!


* This address was composed before the Cuban and Philippine wars. Such outbursts of the passion of mastery are, however, only episodes in a social process which in the long run seems everywhere heading toward the Chatauquan ideals.

**My Confession, X. (condensed).

***Across the Plains: "Pulvis et Umbra" (abridged).

****Sermons, 5th Series, New York, 1893, PP. 166, 167.

****** Essays by a Barrister, London, 1862, P. 318.


This is a revised version of AI Memo No. 616, MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. An earlier published version appeared in Music, Mind, and Brain: The Neuropsychology of Music (Manfred Clynes, ed.) Plenum, New York, 1981

Why Do We Like Music?

Why do we like music? Our culture immerses us in it for hours each day, and everyone knows how it touches our emotions, but few think of how music touches other kinds of thought. It is astonishing how little curiosity we have about so pervasive an "environmental" influence. What might we discover if we were to study musical thinking?

Have we the tools for such work? Years ago, when science still feared meaning, the new field of research called 'Artificial Intelligence' started to supply new ideas about "representation of knowledge" that I'll use here. Are such ideas too alien for anything so subjective and irrational, aesthetic, and emotional as music? Not at all. I think the problems are the same and those distinctions wrongly drawn: only the surface of reason is rational. I don't mean that understanding emotion is easy, only that understanding reason is probably harder. Our culture has a universal myth in which we see emotion as more complex and obscure than intellect. Indeed, emotion might be "deeper" in some sense of prior evolution, but this need not make it harder to understand; in fact, I think today we actually know much more about emotion than about reason.

Certainly we know a bit about the obvious processes of reason–the ways we organize and represent ideas we get. But whence come those ideas that so conveniently fill these envelopes of order? A poverty of language shows how little this concerns us: we "get" ideas; they "come" to us; we are 're-minded of" them. I think this shows that ideas come from processes obscured from us and with which our surface thoughts are almost uninvolved. Instead, we are entranced with our emotions, which are so easily observed in others and ourselves. Perhaps the myth persists because emotions, by their nature, draw attention, while the processes of reason (much more intricate and delicate) must be private and work best alone.

The old distinctions among emotion, reason, and aesthetics are like the earth, air, and fire of an ancient alchemy. We will need much better concepts than these for a working psychic chemistry.

Much of what we now know of the mind emerged in this century from other subjects once considered just as personal and inaccessible but which were explored, for example, by Freud in his work on adults' dreams and jokes, and by Piaget in his work on children's thought and play. Why did such work have to wait for modern times? Before that, children seemed too childish and humor much too humorous for science to take them seriously.

Why do we like music? We all are reluctant, with regard to music and art, to examine our sources of pleasure or strength. In part we fear success itself– we fear that understanding might spoil enjoyment. Rightly so: art often loses power when its psychological roots are exposed. No matter; when this happens we will go on, as always, to seek more robust illusions!

I feel that music theory has gotten stuck by trying too long to find universals. Of course, we would like to study Mozart's music the way scientists analyze the spectrum of a distant star. Indeed, we find some almost universal practices in every musical era. But we must view these with suspicion, for they might show no more than what composers then felt should be universal. If so, the search for truth in art becomes a travesty in which each era's practice only parodies its predecessor's prejudice. Imagine formulating "laws" for television screenplays, taking them for natural phenomenon uninfluenced by custom or constraint of commerce.

The trouble with the search for universal laws of thought is that both memory and thinking interact and grow together. We do not just learn about things, we learn ways to think about things; then we can learn to think about thinking itself. Before long, our ways of thinking become so complicated that we cannot expect to understand their details in terms of their surface operation, but we might understand the principles that guide their growth. In much of this article I will speculate about how listening to music engages the previously acquired personal knowledge of the listener.

It has become taboo for music theorists to ask why we like what we like: our seekers have forgotten what they are searching for. To be sure, we can't account for tastes, in general, because people have various preferences. But this means only that we have to find the causes of this diversity of tastes, and this in turn means we must see that music theory is not only about music, but about how people process it. To understand any art, we must look below its surface into the psychological details of its creation and absorption.

If explaining minds seems harder than explaining songs, we should remember that sometimes enlarging problems makes them simpler! The theory of the roots of equations seemed hard for centuries within its little world of real numbers, but it suddenly seemed simple once Gauss exposed the larger world of so-called complex numbers. Similarly, music should make more sense once seen through listeners' minds.

Sonata as Teaching Machine

Music makes things in our minds, but afterward most of them fade away. What remains? In one old story about Mozart, the wonder child hears a lengthy contrapuntal mass and then writes down the entire score. I do not believe such tales, for history documents so few of them that they seem to be mere legend, though by that argument Mozart also would seem to be legend. Most people do not even remember the themes of an evening's concert. Yet, when the tunes are played again, they are recognized. Something must remain in the mind to cause this, and perhaps what we learn is not the music itself but a way of hearing it.

Compare a sonata to a teacher. The teacher gets the pupils' attention, either dramatically or by the quiet trick of speaking softly. Next, the teacher presents the elements carefully, not introducing too many new ideas or developing them too far, for until the basics are learned the pupils cannot build on them. So, at first, the teacher repeats a lot. Sonatas, too, explain first one idea, then another, and then recapitulate it all.

(Music has many forms and there are many ways to teach. I do not say that composers consciously intend to teach at all, yet they are masters at inventing forms for exposition, including those that swarm with more ideas and work our minds much harder.)

Thus 'expositions' show the basic stuff–the atoms of impending chemistries and how some simple compounds can be made from those atoms. Then, in 'developments', those now-familiar compounds, made from bits and threads of beat and tone, can clash or merge, contrast or join together. We find things that do not fit into familiar frameworks hard to understand–such things seem meaningless. I prefer to turn that around: a thing has meaning only after we have learned some ways to represent and process what it means, or to understand its parts and how they are put together.

What is the difference between merely knowing (or remembering, or memorizing) and understanding? We all agree that to understand something, we must know what it means, and that is about as far as we ever get. I think I know why that happens. A thing or idea seems meaningful only when we have several different ways to represent it–different perspectives and different associations. Then we can turn it around in our minds, so to speak: however it seems at the moment, we can see it another way and we never come to a full stop. In other words, we can 'think' about it. If there were only one way to represent this thing or idea, we would not call this representation thinking.

So something has a "meaning" only when it has a few; if we understood something just one way, we would not understand it at all. That is why the seekers of the "real" meanings never find them. This holds true especially for words like 'understand'. That is why sonatas start simply, as do the best of talks and texts. The basics are repeated several times before anything larger or more complex is presented(l. No one remembers word for word all that is said in a lecture or all notes that are played in a piece. Yet if we have understood the lecture or piece once, we now "own" new networks of knowledge about each theme and how it changes and relates to others. No one could remember all of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony from a single hearing, but neither could one ever again hear those first four notes as just four notes! Once a tiny scrap of sound, these four notes have become a known thing–a locus in the web of all the other things we know and whose meanings and significances depend on one another.

Learning to recognize is not the same as memorizing. A mind might build an agent that can sense a certain stimulus, yet build no agent that can reproduce it. How could such a mind learn that the first half-subject of Beethoven's Fifth–call it A–prefigures the second half–call it B? It is simple: an agent A that recognizes A sends a message to another agent B, built to recognize B. That message serves to "lower B's threshold" so that after A hears A, B will react to smaller hints of B than it would otherwise. As a result, that mind "expects" to hear B after A; that is, it will discern B, given fewer or more subtle cues, and might "complain" if it cannot. Yet that mind cannot reproduce either theme in any generative sense. The point is that inter-agent messages need not be in surface music languages, but can be in codes that influence certain other agents to behave in different ways.

(Andor Kovach pointed out to me that composers do not dare use this simple, four-note motive any more. So memorable was Beethoven's treatment that now an accidental hint of it can wreck another piece by unintentionally distracting the Listener.)

If sonatas are lessons, what are the subjects of those lessons? The answer is in the question! One thing the Fifth Symphony taught us is how to hear those first four notes. The surface form is just: descending major third, first tone repeated thrice. At first, that pattern can be heard two different ways:

But once we have heard the symphony, the latter is unthinkable–a strange constraint to plant in all our heads! Let us see how it is taught.

The Fifth declares at once its subject, then its near-identical twin. First comes the theme. Presented in a stark orchestral unison, its minor mode location in tonality is not yet made explicit, nor is its metric frame yet clear: the subject stands alone in time. Next comes its twin. The score itself leaves room to view this transposed counterpart as a complement or as a new beginning. Until now, fermatas have hidden the basic metric frame, a pair of twinned four-measure halves. So far we have only learned to hear those halves as separate wholes.

The next four-measure metric half-frame shows three versions of the subject, one on each ascending pitch of the tonic triad. (Now we arc sure the key is minor.) This shows us how the subject can be made to overlap itself, the three short notes packed perfectly inside the long tone's time-space. The second half-frame does the same, with copies of the complement ascending the dominant seventh chord. This fits the halves together in that single, most familiar, frame of harmony. In rhythm, too, the halves are so precisely congruent that there is no room to wonder how to match them–and attach them–into one eight-measure unit.

The next eight-measure frame explains some more melodic points: how to smooth the figure's firmness with passing tones and how to counterpoise the subject's own inversion inside the long note. (I think that this evokes a sort of sinusoidal motion-frame idea that is later used to represent the second subject.) It also illustrates compression of harmonic time; seen earlier, this would obscure the larger rhythmic unit, but now we know enough to place each metric frame precisely on the afterimage of the one before. Then,

Cadence. Silence. Almost. Total.

Now it is the second subject-twin's turn to stand alone in time. The conductor must select a symmetry: he or she can choose to answer prior cadence, to start anew, or to close the brackets opened at the very start. Can the conductor do all at once and maintain the metric frame? We hear a long, long unison F (Subdominant?) for, underneath that silent surface sound, we hear our minds rehearsing what was heard.

The next frame reveals the theme again, descending now by thirds. We see that it was the dominant ninth, not subdominant at all. The music fooled us that time, but never will again. Then, tour de force: the subject climbs, sounding on every scale degree. This new perspective shows us how to see the four-note theme as an appogiatura. Then, as it descends on each tonic chord-note, we are made to see it as a fragment of arpeggio. That last descent completes a set of all four possibilities, harmonic and directional. (Is this deliberate didactic thoroughness, or merely the accidental outcome of the other symmetries?) Finally, the theme's melodic range is squeezed to nothing, yet it survives and even gains strength as single tone. It has always seemed to me a mystery of art, the impact of those moments in quartets when texture turns to single line and fortepiano shames sforzando in perceived intensity. But such acts, which on the surface only cause the structure or intensity to disappear, must make the largest difference underneath. Shortly, I will propose a scheme in which a sudden, searching change awakes a lot of mental Difference-Finders. This very change wakes yet more difference-finders, and this awakening wakes still more. That is how sudden silence makes the whole mind come alive.

We are "told" all this in just one minute of the lesson and I have touched but one dimension of its rhetoric. Besides explaining, teachers beg and threaten, calm and scare; use gesture, timbre, quaver, and sometimes even silence. This is vital in music, too. Indeed, in the Fifth, it is the start of the subject! Such "lessons" must teach us as much about triads and triplets as mathematicians have learned about angles and sides! Think how much we can learn about minor second intervals from Beethoven's Grosse Fuge in E-flat, Opus 133.

What Use Is Music?

Why on earth should anyone want to learn such things? Geometry is practical–for building pyramids, for instance–but of what use is musical knowledge? Here is one idea. Each child spends endless days in curious ways; we call this play. A child stacks and packs all kinds of blocks and boxes, lines them up, and knocks them down. What is that all about? Clearly, the child is learning about space! But how on earth does one learn about time? Can one time fit inside another? Can two of them go side by side? In music, we find out! It is often said that mathematicians are unusually involved in music, but that musicians are not involved in mathematics. Perhaps both mathematicians and musicians like to make simple things more complicated, but mathematics may be too constrained to satisfy that want entirely, while music can be rigorous or free. The way the mathematics game is played, most variations lie outside the rules, while music can insist on perfect canon or tolerate a casual accompaniment. So mathematicians might need music, but musicians might not need mathematics. A simpler theory is that since music engages us at earlier ages, some mathematicians are those missing mathematical musicians.

Most adults have some childlike fascination for making and arranging larger structures out of smaller ones. One kind of musical understanding involves building large mental structures out of smaller, musical parts. Perhaps the drive to build those mental music structures is the same one that makes us try to understand the world. (Or perhaps that drive is just an accidental mutant variant of it; evolution often copies needless extra stuff, and minds so new as ours must contain a lot of that.)

Sometimes, though, we use music as a trick to misdirect our understanding of the world. When thoughts are painful we have no way to make them stop. We can attempt to turn our minds to other matters, but doing this (some claim) just submerges the bad thoughts. Perhaps the music that some call 'background' music can tranquilize by turning under-thoughts from bad to neutral, leaving the surface thoughts free of affect by diverting the unconscious. The structures we assemble in that detached kind of listening might be wholly solipsistic webs of meaninglike cross-references that nowhere touch "reality." In such a self-constructed world, we would need no truth or falsehood, good or evil, pain or joy. Music, in this unpleasant view, would serve as a fine escape from tiresome thoughts.

Syntactic Theories of Music

Contrast two answers to the question, Why do we like certain tunes?

The first answer has to do with the laws and rules that make tunes pleasant. In language, we know some laws for sentences; that is, we know the forms sentences must have to be syntactically acceptable, if not the things they must have to make them sensible or even pleasant to the ear. As to melody, it seems that we only know some features that can help–but we know of no absolutely essential features. I do not expect much more to come of a search for a compact set of rules for musical phrases. (The point is not so much about what we mean by 'rule', as about how large is the body of knowledge involved.)

The second answer has to do with significance outside the tune itself, in the same way that asking "Which sentences are meaningful?" takes us outside shared linguistic practice and forces us to look upon each person's private tangled webs of thought. Those private webs feed upon themselves, as in all spheres involving preference: we tend to like things that remind us of the other things we like. For example, some of us like music that resembles the songs, carols, rhymes, and hymns we liked in childhood. All this begs this question: If we like new tunes that are similar to those we already like, where does our liking for music start? I will come back to this later.

The term 'resemble' begs a question too: What are the rules of musical resemblance? I am sure that this depends a lot on how melodies are "represented" in each individual mind. In each single mind, some different "mind parts" do this different ways: the same tune seems (at different times) to change its rhythm, mode, or harmony. Beyond that, individuals differ even more. Some listeners squirm to symmetries and shapes that others scarcely hear at all and some fine fugue subjects seem banal to those who sense only a single line. My guess is that our contrapuntal sensors harmonize each fading memory with others that might yet be played; perhaps Bach's mind could do this several ways at once. Even one such process might suffice to help an improviser plan what to try to play next. (To try is sufficient since improvisers, like stage magicians, know enough vamps or 'ways out' to keep the music going when bold experiments fail.

How is it possible to improvise or comprehend a complex contrapuntal piece? Simple statistical explanations cannot begin to describe such processes. Much better are the generative and transformational (e.g., neo-Schenkerian) theories of syntactic analysis, but only for the simplest analytic uses. At best, the very aim of syntax-oriented music theories is misdirected because they aspire to describe the sentences that minds produce without attempting to describe how the sentences are produced. Meaning is much more than sentence structure. We cannot expect to be able to describe the anatomy of the mind unless we understand its embryology. And so (as with most any other very complicated matter), science must start with surface systems of description. But this surface taxonomy, however elegant and comprehensive in itself, must yield in the end to a deeper, causal explanation. To understand how memory and process merge in "listening," we will have to learn to use much more "procedural" descriptions, such as programs that describe how processes proceed.

In science, we always first explain things in terms of what can be observed. {Earth, water, fire, air.] Yet things that come from complicated processes do not necessarily show their natures on the surface. [The steady pressure of a gas conceals those countless, abrupt micro-impacts.] To speak of what such things might mean or represent, we have to speak of how they are made.

We cannot describe how the mind is made without having good ways to describe complicated processes. Before computers, no languages were good for that. Piaget tried algebra and Freud tried diagrams; other psychologists used Markov Chains and matrices, but none came to much Behaviorists, quite properly, had ceased to speak at all. Linguists flocked to formal syntax, and made progress for a time but reached a limit: transformational grammar shows the contents of the registers (so to speak), but has no way to describe what controls them. This makes it hard to say how surface speech relates to underlying designation and intent–a baby-and-bath-water situation. I prefer ideas from Al research because there we tend to seek procedural description first, which seems more appropriate for mental matters.

I do not see why so many theorists find this approach disturbing. It is true that the new power derived from this approach has a price: we can say more, with computational description, but prove less. Yet less is lost than many think, for mathematics never could prove much about such complicated things. Theorems often tell us complex truths about the simple things, but only rarely tell us simple truths about the complex ones. To believe otherwise is wishful thinking or "mathematics envy." Many musical problems that resist formal solutions may turn out to be tractable anyway, in future simulations that grow artificial musical semantic networks, perhaps by "raising" simulated infants in traditional musical cultures. It will be exciting when one of these infants first shows a hint of real "talent."

Space and Tune

When we enter a room, we seem to see it all at once; we are not permitted this illusion when listening to a symphony. "Of course," one might declare, for hearing has to thread a serial path through time, while sight embraces a space all at once. Actually, it takes time to see new scenes, though we are not usually aware of this. That totally compelling sense that we are conscious of seeing everything in the room instantly and immediately is certainly the strangest of our "optical" illusions.

Music, too, immerses us in seemingly stable worlds! How can this be, when there is so little of it present at each moment? I will try to explain this by (1) arguing that hearing music is like viewing scenery and (2) by asserting that when we hear good music our minds react in very much the same way they do when we see things.' And make no mistake: I meant to say "good" music! This little theory is not meant to work for any senseless bag of musical tricks, but only for those certain kinds of music that, in their cultural times and places, command attention and approval.

(Edward Fredkin suggested to me the theory that listening to music might exercise some innate map-making mechanism in the brain. When I mentioned the puzzle of music's repetitiousness, he compared it to the way rodents explore new places: first they go one way a little, then back to home. They do it again a few times, then go a little farther. They try small digressions, but frequently return to base. Both people and mice explore new territories that way, making mental maps lest they get lost. Music might portray this building process, or even exercise those very parts of the mind.)

To see the problem in a slightly different way, consider cinema. Contrast a novice's clumsy patched and pasted reels of film with those that transport us to other worlds so artfully composed that our own worlds seem shoddy and malformed. What "hides the seams" to make great films so much less than the sum of their parts–so that we do not see them as mere sequences of scenes? What makes us feel that we are there and part of it when we are in fact immobile in our chairs, helpless to deflect an atom of the projected pattern's predetermined destiny? I will follow this idea a little further, then try to explain why good music is both more and less than sequences of notes.

Our eyes are always flashing sudden flicks of different pictures to our brains, yet none of that saccadic action leads to any sense of change or motion in the world; each thing reposes calmly in its "place"! What makes those objects stay so still while images jump and jerk so? What makes us such innate Copernicans? I will first propose how this illusion works in vision, then in music.

We will find the answer deep within the way the mind regards itself. When speaking of illusion, we assume that someone is being fooled. "I know those lines are straight," I say, "but they look bent to me." Who are those different I's and me's? We are all convinced that somewhere in each person struts a single, central self: atomic and indivisible. (And secretly we hope that it is also indestructible.)

I believe, instead, that inside each mind work many different agents. (The idea of societies of agents [Minsky 1977; 1980a; 1980b] originated in my work with Seymour Papert.) All we really need to know about agents is this: each agent knows what happens to some others, but little of what happens to the rest. It means little to say, "Eloise was unaware of X" unless we say more about which of her mind-agents were uninvolved with X. Thinking consists of making mind-agents work together; the very core of fruitful thought is breaking problems into different kinds of parts and then assigning the parts to the agents that handle them best. {Among our most important agents are those that manage these assignments, for they are the agents that embody what each person knows about what he or she knows. Without these agents we would be helpless, for we would not know what our knowing is for.)

In that division of labor we call 'seeing', I will suppose that a certain mind-agent called Feature-Finder sends messages (about features it finds on the retina) to another agent, Scene-Analyzer. Scene-Analyzer draws conclusions from the messages it gets and sends its own, in turn, to other mind-parts. For instance, Feature-Finder finds and tells about some scraps of edge and texture; then scene analyzer finds and tells that these might fit some bit of shape.

Perhaps those features come from glimpses of a certain real table leg. But knowing such a thing is not for agents at this level; scene-analyzer does not know of any such specific things. All it can do is broadcast something about shape to hosts of other agents who specialize in recognizing special things. Since special things–like tables, words, or dogs– must be involved with memory and learning, there is at least one such agent for every kind of thing this mind has learned to recognize. Thus, we can hope, this message reaches Table-Maker, an agent specialized to recognize evidence that a table is in the field of view. After many such stages, descendants of such messages finally reach Space-Builder, an agent that tries to tell of real things in real space.

Now we can see one reason why perception seems so effortless: while messages from Scene-Analyzer to Table-Maker are based on evidence that Feature-Finder supplied, the messages themselves need not say what feature-finder itself did, or how it did it. Partly this is because it would take scene-analyzer too long to explain all that. In any case, the recipients could make no use of all that information since they are not engineers or psychologists, but just little specialized nerve nets.

Only in the past few centuries have painters learned enough technique and trickery to simulate reality. (Once so informed, they often now choose different goals. Thus Space-Builder, like an ordinary person, knows nothing of how vision works, or about perspective, foveae, or blind spots. We only learn such things in school: millennia of introspection never led to their suspicion, nor did meditation, transcendental or mundane. The mind holds tightly to its secrets not from stinginess or shame, but simply because it does not know them.

Messages, in this scheme, go various ways. Each motion of the eye or head or body makes Feature-Finder start anew, and such motions are responses by muscle-moving agents to messages that Scene-Analyzer sends when it needs more details to resolve ambiguities. Scene-Analyzer itself responds to messages from "higher up." For instance, Space-Builder may have asked, "Is that a table?" of Table-Maker, which replies to itself, "Perhaps, but it should have another leg–there," so it asks scene-analyzer to verify this, and Scene-Analyzer gets the job done by making Eye-Mover look down and to the left. Nor is Scene-Understander autonomous: its questions to Scene-Analyzer are responses to requests from others. There need be no first cause in such a network.

When we look up, we are never afraid that the ground has disappeared—no matter that it has "dis-appeared." This is because Space-Builder remembers all the answers to its questions and never CHANGES any of those answers without reason; moving our eyes or raising our heads provide no cause to exorcise that floor inside our current spatial model of the room. My paper on frame-systems [Minsky 1974] says more about these concepts. Here we need only these few details.

Now, back to our illusions. While Feature-Finder is not instantaneous, it is very, very fast and a highly parallel pattern matcher. Whatever Scene-Analyzer asks, Feature-Finder answers in an eye flick, a mere tenth of a second (or less if we have image buffers). More speed comes from the way in which Space-Builder can often tell itself, via its own high-speed model memory, about what has been seen before. I argue that all this speed is another root of our illusion:

If answers seem to come as soon as questions are asked, they will seem to have been there all along.

The illusion is enhanced in yet another way by '"expectation" or "default." Those agents know good ways to lie and bluff! Aroused by only partial evidence that a table is in view, Table-Maker supplies Space-Builder with fictitious details about some "typical table'" while its servants find out more about the real one! Once so informed, Space-Builder can quickly move and plan ahead, taking some risks but ready to make corrections later. This only works, of course, when prototypes are good, and are rightly activated–that is what intelligence is all about.

As for "awareness" of how all such things are done, there simply is not room for that. Space-Builder is too remote and different to understand how feature-finder does its work of eye fixation. Each part of the mind is unaware of almost all that happens in the others. (That is why we need psychologists; we think we know what happens in our minds because those agents are so facile with "defaults" – but really, we are almost always wrong about such things.) True, each agent needs to know which of its servants can do what, but as to how, that information has no place or use inside those tiny minds inside our minds.

How do both music and vision build things in our minds? Eye motions show us real objects; phrases show us musical objects. We "learn" a room with bodily motions; large musical sections show us musical "places." Walks and climbs move us from room to room; so do transitions between musical sections. Looking back in vision is like recapitulation in music; both give us time, at certain points, to reconfirm or change our conceptions of the whole.

Hearing a theme is like seeing a thing in a room, a section or movement is like a room, and a whole sonata is like an entire building. I do not mean to say that music builds the sorts of things that space-builder does. (That is too naive a comparison of sound and place.) I do mean to say that composers stimulate coherency by engaging the same sorts of inter-agent coordinations that vision uses to produce its illusion of a stable world using, of course, different agents. I think the same is true of talk or writing, the way these very paragraphs make sense– or sense of sense–if any.

Composing and Conducting

In seeing, we can move our eyes; lookers can choose where they shall look, and when. In music we must listen *here*; that is, to the part that's being played now. It is simply no use asking Music-Finder to look *there* because it's not then, now.

If composer and conductor choose what part we hear, does not this ruin our analogy? When Music-Analyzer asks its questions, how can Music-Finder answer them unless, miraculously, the music happens to be playing what music-finder wants at just that very instant? If so, then how can music paint its scenes unless composers know exactly what the listeners will ask at every moment? How to ensure–when Music-Analyzer wants it now–that precisely that "something" will be playing now?

That is the secret of music—of writing, playing, and conducting it! Music need not, of course, confirm each listener's every expectation; each plot demands some novelty. Whatever the intent, control is required or novelty will turn to nonsense. If allowed to think too much themselves, the listeners will find unanswered questions in any score—about accidents of form and figure, voice and line, temperament and difference-tone.

Composers can have different goals: to calm and soothe, surprise and shock, tell tales, stage scenes, teach new things, or tear down prior arts. For some such purposes composers must use the known forms and frames or else expect misunderstanding. Of course, when expectations are confirmed too often the style may seem dull; this is our concern in the next section. Yet, just as in language, one often best explains a new idea by using older ones, avoiding jargon or too much lexical innovation. If readers cannot understand the words themselves, the sentences may "be Greek to them."

This is not a matter of a simple hierarchy, in which each meaning stands on lower-level ones, for example, word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. Things never really work that way, and jabberwocky shows how sense comes through though many words are new. In every era some contemporary music changes basic elements yet exploits established larger forms, but innovations that violate too drastically the expectations of the culture cannot meet certain kinds of goals. Of course this will not apply to works whose goals include confusion and revolt, or when composers try to create things that hide or expurgate their own intentionality, but in these instances it may be hard to hold the audience.

Each musical artist must forecast and pre-direct the listener's fixations to draw attention here and distract it from there–to force the hearer (again, like a magician does) to ask only the questions that the composition is about to answer. Only by establishing such pre-established harmony can music make it seem that something is there.

Rhythm and Redundancy

A popular song has 100 measures, 1000 beats. What must the Martians imagine we mean by those measures and beats, measures and beats! The words themselves reveal an awesome repetitiousness. Why isn't music boring?

Is hearing so like seeing that we need a hundred glances to build each musical image? Some repetitive musical textures might serve to remind us of things that persist through time like wind and stream. But many sounds occur only once: we must hear a pin drop now or seek and search for it; this is one reason why we have no ear-lids. Poetry drops pins, it says each thing just once or not at all. So does some music.

Then why do we tolerate music's relentless rhythmic pulse or other repetitive architectural features? There is no one answer, for we hear in different ways, on different scales. Some of those ways portray the spans of time directly, but others speak of musical 'things', in worlds where time folds over on itself. And there, I think, is where we use those beats and measures. Music's metric frames are transient templates used for momentary matching. Its rhythms are "synchronization pulses" used to match new phrases against old, the better to contrast them with differences and change. As differences and change are sensed, the rhythmic frames fade from our awareness. Their work is done and the messages of higher-level agents never speak of them; that is why metric music is not boring!

Good music germinates from tiny seeds. How cautiously we handle novelty, sandwiching the new between repeated sections of familiar stuff! The clearest kind of change is near-identity, in thought just as in vision. Slight shifts in view may best reveal an object's form or even show us whether it is there at all.

When we discussed sonatas, we saw how matching different metric frames helps us to sense the musical ingredients. Once frames are matched, we can see how altering a single note at one point will change a major third melodic skip at another point to smooth passing tones; or will make what was *there* a seventh chord into, *here*, a dominant ninth with missing root. Matching lets our minds see different things, from different times, together. This fusion of those matching lines of tone from different measures – like television's separate lines and frames –lets us make those magic musical pictures in our minds.

How do our musical agents do this kind of work for us? We must have organized them into structures that are good at finding differences between frames. Here is a simplified four-level scheme that might work. Many such ideas are current in research on vision (Winston 1975).

Feature-Finders listen for simple time-events such as notes or peaks or pulses.
 Measure-Takers notice certain patterns of time-events like 3/4, 4/4, 6/8.
  Difference-Finders notice that figure X is like figure Y, but higher by a fifth.
   Structure-Builders notice that three phrases form an a regular "sequence."

The idea of interconnecting Feature-Finders, Difference-Finders, and Structure-Builders is well-exemplified in Winston's work [1975]. Measure-Takers would be kinds of 'frames', as described in [Minsky 1974]. First, the Feature-Finders search the sound stream for the simplest sorts of musical significance: entrances and envelopes, the tones themselves, the other little, local things. Then Measure-Takers look for metric patterns in those small events and put them into groups, thus finding beats and postulating rhythmic regularities. Then the Difference-Finders can begin to sense events of musical importance—imitations and inversions, syncopations and suspensions. Once these are found, the Structure-Builders can start work on a larger scale.

The entire four-level agency is just one layer of a larger system in which analogous structures are repeated on larger scales. At each scale, another level of order (with its own sorts of things and differences) makes larger-scale descriptions, and thus consumes another order of structural form. As a result, notes become figures, figures turn into phrases, and phrases turn into sequences; and notes become chords, and chords make up progressions, and so on and on. Relations at each level turn to things at the next level above and are thus more easily remembered and compared. This "time-warps" things together, changing tone into tonality, note into composition.

The more regular the rhythm, the easier the matching goes—and the fewer difference agents are excited further on. Thus once it is used for "lining up," the metric structure fades from our attention because it is represented as fixed and constant like the floor of the room you are in, until some metric alteration makes the measure-takers change their minds. Sic semper all Alberti basses, um-pah-pahs, and ostinati: they all become imperceptible except when changing. Rhythm has many other functions, to be sure, and agents for those other functions see things different ways. Agents used for dancing do attend to rhythm, while other forms of music demand less steady pulses.

We all experience a phenomenon we might call 'persistence of rhythm', in which our minds maintain the beat through episodes of ambiguity. I presume that this emerges from a basic feature of how agents are usually assembled; at every level, many agents of each kind compete [Minsky 1980b]. Thus agents for 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 compete to find best fits. Once in power, however, each agent "cross-inhibits" its competitors. Once 3/4 takes charge of things, 6/8 will find it hard to "get a hearing" even if the evidence on its side becomes slightly better.

When none of the agents has any solid evidence long enough, agents change at random or take turns. Thus anything gets interesting, in a way, if it is monotonous enough! We all know how, when a word or phrase is repeated often enough it, it appears to change—as restless searchers start to amplify minutiae and interpret noise as structure. This happens at all levels because when things are regular at one level, the difference agents at the next will fail, to be replaced by other, fresh ones that then re-present the sameness different ways. (Thus meditation, undirected from the higher mental realms, fares well with the most banal of repetitious inputs from below.)

Regularities are hidden while expressive nuances are sensed and emphasized and passed along. Rubato or crescendo, ornament or passing tone, the alterations at each level become the objects for the next. The mystery is solved; the brain is so good at sensing differences that it forgets the things themselves; that is, whenever they are the same. As for liking music, that depends on what remains.

Sentic Significance

Why do we like any tunes in the first place? Do we simply associate some tunes with pleasant experiences? Should we look back to the tones and patterns of mother's voice or heartbeat? Or could it be that some themes are innately likable? All these theories could hold truth, and others too, for nothing need have a single cause inside the mind.

Theories about children need not apply to adults because (I suspect) human minds do so much self-revising that things can get detached from their origins. We might end up liking both The Art of Fugue and The Musical Offering, mainly because each work's subject illuminates the other, which gives each work a richer network of "significance." Dependent circularity need be no paradox here, for in thinking (unlike logic) two things can support each other in midair. To be sure, such autonomy is precarious; once detached from origins, might one not drift strangely awry? Indeed so, and many people seem quite mad to one another.

In his book Sentics [l978], the pianist-physiologist Manfred Clynes describes certain specific temporal sensory patterns and claims that each is associated with a certain common emotional state. For example, in his experiments, two particular patterns that gently rise and fall are said to suggest states of love and reverence; two others (more abrupt) signify anger and hate. He claims that these and other patterns–he calls them 'sentic'–arouse the same effects through different senses–that is, embodied as acoustical intensity, or pitch, or tactile pressure, or even visual motion–and that this is cross-cultural. The time lengths of these sentic shapes, on the order of 1 sec, could correspond to parts of musical phrases.

Clynes studied the "muscular" details of instrumental performances with this in view, and concluded that music can engage emotions through these sentic signals. Of course, more experiments are needed to verify that such signals really have the reported effects. Nevertheless, I would expect to find something of the sort for quite a different reason: namely, to serve in the early social development of children. Sentic signals (if they exist) would be quite useful in helping infants to learn about themselves and others.

All learning theories require brains to somehow impose "values" implicit or explicit in the choice of what to learn to do. Most such theories say that certain special signals, called reinforcers, are involved in this. For certain goals it should suffice to use some simple, "primary" physiological stimuli like eating, drinking, relief of physical discomfort.

Human infants must learn social signals, too. The early learning theorists in this century assumed that certain social sounds (for instance, of approval) could become reinforcers by association with innate reinforcers, but evidence for this was never found. If parents could exploit some innate sentic cues, that mystery might be explained.

This might also touch another, deeper problem: that of how an infant forms an image of its own mind. Self-images are important for at least two reasons. First, external reinforcement can only be a part of human learning; the growing infant must eventually learn to learn from within to free itself from its parents. With Freud, I think that children must replace and augment the outside teacher with a self-constructed, inner, parent image. Second, we need a self-model simply to make realistic plans for solving ordinary problems. For example, we must know enough about our own dispositions to be able to assess which plans are feasible. Pure self-commitment does not work; we simply cannot carry out a plan that we will find too boring to complete or too vulnerable to other, competing interests. We need models of our own behavior. How could a baby be smart enough to build such a model?

Innate sentic detectors could help by teaching children about their own affective states. For if distinct signals arouse specific states, the child can associate those signals with those states. Just knowing that such states exist, that is, having symbols for them, is half the battle. If those signals are uniform enough, then from social discourse one can learn some rules about the behavior caused by those states. Thus a child might learn that conciliatory signals can change anger into affection. Given that sort of information, a simple learning machine should be able to construct a 'finite-state person model." This model would be crude at first, but to get started would be half of the job. Once the baby had a crude model of some other person, it could be copied and adapted in work on the baby's own self-model. This is more normative and constructional than it is descriptive, as Freud hinted, because the self-model dictates (rather than portrays) what it purports to portray. With regard to music, it seems possible that we conceal, in the innocent songs and setting of our children's musical cultures, some lessons about successions of our own affective states. Sentically encrypted, those ballads could encode instructions about conciliation and affection, or aggression and retreat—precisely the knowledge of signals and states that we need to get along with others. In later life, more complex music might illustrate more intricate kinds of compromise and conflict, ways to fit goals together to achieve more than one thing at a time. Finally, for grown-ups, our Burgesses and Kubricks fit Odes to Joy to Clockwork Oranges.

If you find all this farfetched, so do I. But before rejecting it entirely, recall the question, Why do we have music, and let it occupy our lives with no apparent reason? When no idea seems right, the right one must seem wrong.

Theme and Thing

What is the subject of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony? Is it just those first four notes? Does it include the twin, transposed companion too? What of the other variations, augmentations, and inversions? Do they all stem from a single prototype? In this case, yes.

Or do they? For later in the symphony the theme appears in triplet form to serve as countersubject of the scherzo: three notes and one, three notes and one, three notes and one, still they make four. Melody turns into monotone rhythm; meter is converted to two equal beats. Downbeat now falls on an actual note, instead of a silence. With all of those changes, the themes are quite different and yet the same. Neither the form in the allegro nor the scherzo alone is the prototype; separate and equal, they span musical time.

Is there some more abstract idea that they both embody? This is like the problem raised by Wittgenstein of what words like game mean. In my paper on frames [Minsky 1974] I argue that for vision, 'chair 'can be described by no single prototype; it is better to use several prototypes connected in relational networks of similarities and differences. I doubt that even these would suffice to well represent musical ideas ; there are better tools in conceptual dependency, frame-systems, and semantic networks. (See Roads, 1980.)

What is a good theme? Without that bad word good, I do not think the question is well formed because anything is a theme if everything is music!

So let us split that question into (1) What mental conditions or processes do pleasant tunes evoke? and (2) What do we mean by pleasant? Both questions are hard, but the first is only hard; to answer it will take much thought and experimentation, which is good. The second question is very different. Philosophers and scientists have struggled mightily to understand what pain and pleasure are. I especially like Dennett's [1978] explanation of why that has been so difficult. He argues that pain "works" in different ways at different times, and all those ways have too little in common for the usual definition. I agree, but if pain is not a single thing, why do we talk and think as though it were—and then represent it with such spurious clarity? This is no accident: illusions of this sort have special uses. They play a role connected with a problem facing any society (inside or outside the mind) that learns from its experience. The problem is how to assign the credit and blame, for each accomplishment or failure of the society as a whole, among the myriad agents involved in everything that happens. To the extent that the agents' actions are decided locally, so also must these decisions to credit or blame he made locally.

How, for example, can a mother tell that her child has a need (or that a need has been satisfied) before she has learned specific signs for each such need? That could be arranged if, by evolution, signals were combined from many different internal processes concerned with needs and were provided with a single, common, output–an infant's sentic signal of discomfort (or contentment). Such a genetically pre-established harmony would evoke a corresponding central state in the parent. We would feel this as something like the distress we feel when babies cry.

A signal for satisfaction is also needed. Suppose, among the many things a child does, there is one that mother likes, which she demonstrates by making approving sounds. The child has just been walking there, and holding this just so, and thinking that, and speaking in some certain way. How can the mind of the child find out which behavior is good? The trouble is, each aspect of the child's behavior must result from little plans the child made before. We cannot reward an act. We can only reward the agency that selected that strategy, the agent who wisely activated the first agent, and so on. Alas for those behaviorists who wasted their lives life by missing this simple principle.

To reward all those agents and processes, we must propagate some message that they all can use to credit what they did; the plans they made, their strategies and computations. These various recipients have so little in common that such a message of approval, to work at all, must be extremely simple. Words like good are almost content-free messages that enable tutors, inside or outside a society, to tell the members that one or more of them has satisfied some need, and that tutor need not understand which members did what, or how, or even why.

Words like 'satisfy' and 'need' have many shifting meanings. Why, then, do we seem to understand them? Because they evoke that same illusion of substantiality that fools us into thinking it tautologous to ask, why do we like pleasure? This serves a need: the levels of social discourse at which we use such clumsy words as 'like', or 'good', or 'that was fun' must coarsely crush together many different meanings or we will never understand others (or ourselves) at all. Hence that precious, essential poverty of word and sign that makes them so hard to define. Thus the word 'good' is no symbol that simply means or designates, as 'table' does. Instead, it only names this protean injunction: Activate all those unknown processes that correlate and sift and sort, in learning, to see what changes (in myself) should now be made. The word like is just like good, except it is a name we use when we send such structure-building signals to ourselves.

Most of the "uses" of music mentioned in this article–learning about time, fitting things together, getting along with others, and suppressing one's troubles–are very "functional, but overlook much larger scales of "use." Curtis Roads remarked that, "Every world above bare survival is self constructed; whole cultures are built around common things people come to appreciate." These appreciations, represented by aesthetic agents, play roles in more and more of our decisions: what we think is beautiful gets linked to what we think is important. Perhaps, Roads suggests, when groups of mind-agents cannot agree, they tend to cede decisions to those others more concerned with what, for better or for worse, we call aesthetic form and fitness. By having small effects at many little points, those cumulative preferences for taste and form can shape a world.

That is another reason why we say we like the music we like. Liking is the way certain mind-parts make the others learn the things they need to understand that music. Hence liking—and its relatives—lies at the very heart of understanding what we hear. 'Affect' and 'aesthetic' do not lie in other academic worlds that music theories safely can ignore. Those other worlds are academic self-deceptions that we use to make each theorist's problem seem like someone else's.

Note: Many readers of a draft of this article complained about its narrow view of music. What about jazz and other "modern" forms. What about songs with real words, monophonic chants and ragas, music made with gongs and blocks, and all those other kinds of sounds? And what about those listeners who claim to be less intellectual, to simply hear and feel and not to build those big constructions in their minds? We can't discuss here all those things, but we can ask how anyone could be so sure much about what their minds do. It is ingenuous to think that you "just react" to anything a culture works a thousand years to develop. In any case, because it's not my purpose here to define boundaries, it's better to focus in on something that we all agree is musical – and that is why I chose this Symphony. For what is music? All things played on all instruments? Fiddlesticks. All structures made of sound? That has a hollow ring. The things I said of words like 'theme' hold true for words like 'music' too: that word is public property, but not all the senses of its meanings to each different listener.

Acknowledgments

I am indebted to conversations and/or improvisations with Maryann Amacher, John Amuedo, Betty Dexter, Harlan Ellison, Edward Fredkin, Bernard Greenberg, Danny Hillis, Douglas Hofstadter, William Kornfeld, Andor Kovach, David Levitt, Tod Machover, Charlotte Minsky, Curt Roads, Gloria Rudisch, Frederic Rzewski, and Stephen Smoliar.

This article is in memory of Irving Fine.

References

Clynes, Manfred 1978. Sentics. New York: Doubleday.

Dennett, Daniel 1978. "Why a Machine Can't Feel Pain." In Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology. Montgomery, Vermont: Bradford Books.

Minsky, M. 1974. "A Framework for Representing Knowledge." AI Memo 306. Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Condensed version in P. Winston, ed. 1975. The Psychology of Computer Vision. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 211-277.

Minsky, M. 1977. "Plain Talk about Neurodevelopmental Epistemology." In Proceedings of the Fifth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Condensed in P. Winston and R. Brown, eds. 1979. Artificial Intelligence. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, pp. 421-450.

Minsky, M. 1980a. "Jokes and the Logic of the Cognitive Unconscious." Al Memo 603. Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Minsky, M. 1980b. "K-lines: A Theory of Memory." Cognitive Science 4(2): 117-133.

Roads, C. ed. 1980. Computer Music Journal 4[2] and 4[3].

Winston, P. H. 1975. "Learning Structural Descriptions by Examples." In P. Winston, ed. 1975. Psychology of Computer Vision. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 157-209.

Wittgenstein, L. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford University Press.

 

 

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