Showing posts with label Robert Shaw. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Shaw. Show all posts

Friday, March 5, 2010

Synchrony in Human Activities.

Human Cognition: Can Materialism explain it?- Beliefnet

That is exactly what we see; therefore, until this changes, materialism has been vindicated thus far as the ontology which most accurately describes our universe.

As long as you are willing to stipulate that materialism does very poorly in describing a probably insignificant blip in the universe called human cognition. At this point all materialism can say about cognition is that somehow neurochemicals and electrical impulses in neurons create or possibly detect cognition. I readily admit my cognitive bias that cognition is created in the mind/brain, but materialism must by definition be agnostic.

In particular I would like the materialists to explain how a top level string quartet manages the rubato, retards, fermatas, and other musical effects to produce a performance that can make a listener cry, or in one case of a quatuor pour le fin du temps sob uncontrollably. Or how a listener can control the attacks of a professional Rock band. All of which I have personally observed.

Or explain
With a dramatic bow of pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii’s head, rich sounds of the piano, violins, cello and viola broke the concert hall silence as he and a string quartet played Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44.

The standing ovation lasted nearly five minutes, so long that the 20-year-old from Japan returned to the stage twice to bow, grinning from ear to ear.

The audience may have loved Friday’s performance, but not everyone may have known its significance. Tsujii—who was born blind—had to figure out how to cue the other musicians. That was especially important with the Schumann piece, because all instruments must start playing simultaneously in the first movement.

Yeah, sure. The quartet all mentally counted the 3472 microseconds from when his blind eyes crossed the horizontal and they all came in on the 3473rd. There was something else going on here. The leader, in this case Tsujii caused the syncing of the brain waves of the quintet so they could all attack at the same instant. A trained human ear can hear at least millisecond differences in the attack of stringed instruments. With a good ensemble it never does.

So, materialists how did Tsujii sync the brain waves of 4 other people?

I don't know what constitutes psychic by your definition, but the SciAm report states that syncing with the metronome, at the initial attack, and in difficult rhythmic passages the measured brain waves of two unacquainted guitarists in 8 trials were synced.

As noted in my previous post this phenomenon of "knowing when to attack" and following unpredictable tempo modifications is second nature to ensemble musicians. It is not unusual for ensemble musicians especially in rehearsal to be concentrating on the score, and yet still follow the subtle tempo changes that constitute the music. I don't know whether it would be called psychic by your definition or not, but I have experienced and seen the synchronization and its failures.

As another example I have seen a pairs figure skater "stumble" in a blind maneuver but be perfectly in sync with herm partner at the rejoin move which was also blind. I would submit that the skeptics have the burden of proof that the rejoin was based on anything but brain wave sync of unexplained communication channel. Not incidentally, they were out of sync with the music which was one of the reasons I noticed it.

I personally have "researched" the reaction time bill drop bar bet. That is if you catch the bill when I drop it it is yours. Catcher's thumb and finger over the portrait. A false grab means the catcher owes the dropper the bill. Reaction time says the money is in the bank. I was demonstrating this bet with a "fresh squeeze" who eventually became my wife. She caught the bill every time. Fingers right on the portrait usually. We tried this with a wall between us bill in a doorway and the only way I could beat her was randomizing my drop. If I so much as thought about dropping it I lost. This was witnessed by a fairly large group of peers, who were able to observe a randomized trial by a finger signal out of sight of all but the control observer. OT have you ever tried to randomize a physical action?

It would appear that the scientists who did the study you cited see nothing in their results that requires an explanation which goes beyond normal brain events understood in biochemical or information processing terms--business as usual.

"Stipulated. It would be quite beyond the experimental design to explain the mechanism of the synchrony. The synchrony was of course biochemical and information processing functions of the brains of the musicians. That is what they could measure. Like the drunk under the street light looking for lost car keys, science can only look where they have light to see. All the scientists could do was note that the synchrony existed. They could not publish the mechanism of the synchrony even if they speculated on it. At this point it is not science. That does not mean that the mechanism for the synchrony does not exist, it is just in the class of things beyond the measurable world of science."

What's to explain about mirror neurons, religious perceptions God or mental influence on others? At least in the sense that you have a better explanation for us?

How they work. I don't have any explanation of how they work. Just the observation that they do work. I have a speculation that the spinal chord is a brain wave detector, and particularly with respect to motor nerve stimulus can provide the observed synchrony, as in the movement of a school of fish in response to a predator. Whether it can provide higher function synchrony is much more speculative, but it explains some unexplainable observations, including mirror neuron response, and group perceptions of God.

I am always amused by the way scientists conveniently ignore things like reaction time and speed of pressure wave transmission in water in trying to explain the unexplainable synchrony. But currently ESP is a grant killer on par with Creation Science, so it will take a lot of "it just works" scientific evidence to force investigation of the mechanisms.

I have no dog in the fight. I don't believe in skepticism. Science always catches up and disproves belief systems contrary to fact. It will probably take a remote fMRI to catch a group of musicians, or a group of believers syncing up brain waves to do what is necessary. I wish you could have been at the Faure Requiem performance I mentioned earlier. (You don't.) The stick was right on the money. The chorus was all over the bar line.

I have personally experienced, or perhaps imagined, all of the synchronies mentioned in my previous post including the presence of God in a Catholic service. I can only speculate on the mechanism(s). Perhaps in the Catholic service I had a temporal lobe brain fart. Everything is on the table. But it was a physical action, genuflection, that triggered the connection with the congregation or whatever it was.

I'm trying to work out whether I think really good sync is more common amongst instrument players than amongst singers of the same professional status or not. I suspect it might be, but I can also think of extrinsic reasons why that might be so - especially amongst larger choirs. Amongst my CDs, the Robert Shaw chorale and some of the madrigal groups eg Les Arts Florissants doing Gesualdo make a positive case for the singers.

I think the secret is unconducted chamber work either choral or instrumental. And since instrumental chamber music is required of all pro level instrumentalists but not choral singers I suspect you are right.

But having sung for Robert Shaw, there is no way to be out of sync. Somehow, one always knows exactly when to come in. The concentration he puts into a rehearsal and a performance suggests an athlete. A face towel is standard equipment and is changed at every opportunity. He is not an active conductor, so the effort is all mental. I performed the Missa Solemnis under his baton, and there is no way to do the Et Vitam fugue at the tempo he takes it by watching the stick. There is just too much going on. I will admit to the possibility of learning to count microseconds in the rehearsal, but I wouldn't bet on it.

J'C But it was a physical action, genuflection, that triggered the connection with the congregation or whatever it was.I have no reason to doubt your word. The only question between us is whether a word like 'psychic' comes into the explanation.

I wouldn't take it off the table. It would have to be right up there with the brain fart. I don't have a clue as to how it worked. And as I had no previous experience of God, the feeling was of a presence like another person as described by unbelievers in the God Helmet experiment. But it definitely was not a person in the church, not even the priest. The closest analogy I can muster is the feeling I had in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

I think the analogy is apt. I have seen many a noisy group of school children fall dead silent as they cross the threshold of the memorial. I don't think it is anything supernatural, just a feeling of awe and reverence generated by those in the memorial. Is it phychic? A brain fart? Mirror neurons compelling awe and reverence? I don't think science dares to have a clue as to the mechanism. At this point it can just add a data point to the unexplained barrel.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Robert Shaw Legacy

I guess it is time to post on my Tong wall my appreciation for the legacy that Robert Shaw and the Atlanta symphony left for choral music. His Telarc collection while may not always be the best available version of any particular choral work is always musical, and brilliantly executed. Overall it is always worth getting one out to refresh your appreciation of choral music.

Shaw always worked hard on the podium. Whether it was a rehearsal or a performance his forehead towel was always soaked at the end. But the results were always worth his efforts.

It was my good fortune to be his "taxi driver" for the rehearsals for the Missa Solemnis he so graciously offered to take for Bob DeCormier when Bob was laid up with an operation. I enjoyed hearing about his trick or treating with his kids, and his thoughts on choral music, and indeed on anything he wanted to talk about. A genuinely nice person to be stuck in traffic with.

I had begun collecting his Telarc recordings when some were still on vinyl, and one of my cherished possessions is the Vinyl Brahms Requiem he gave me for my taxi services. I think I have them all, and they frequently find their way to the CD player either as a comparison or a reference for a new version of the work. My debt to Maestro Shaw is unmeasurable as a choral singer and as a human being. He was a special person.

Friday, July 10, 2009

ESP, Magic Thinking, and brain waves.

Beliefnet Community > Thread - Magic Thinking:

Not just ... but ESP, are included in the 'wishes come true' category.

If brain wave synchronization isn't ESP I would like to hear your definition of it.

Musicians sync up brain waves all the time and can even link with an audience. If you don't think a string quartet is mentally a single unit, which frequently involves an entire chamber audience, maybe you better go to a chamber concert some time. In larger venues it is harder to sync up, but it occasionally happens. I once was in a performance of the Missa Solemnis for 2000 people in Carnegie hall that for a moment had 2500 people believing in life after death. As a performer I could feel the energy from maestro, the rest of the chorus, orchestra and the audience all feeding off the Et Vitam fugue."

This was Robert Shaw conducting the New York Choral Society substituting for the hospitalized Bob DeCormier. The whole performance was magical and the melding with the audience was frequent but in the Et Vitam Venturi Saeculi, Amen (And the life in the world to come, So be it.) fugue the Maestro had everyone in the hall on the tip of his baton believing in the music if not the words.

I don't know how much of the Mass Beethoven believed in if any, but in the Missa Solemnis he certainly did his job as a musician and made the whole Mass believable and involving. In a good performance I would expect that a good Catholic or Lutheran would be in communion with God for the entire performance and beyond.