- “If you wish to rise, stop using the word amen, which comes from amun, the last stage of the sun and means the hidden, it shall remain hidden, or darkness. Truth was twisted by the priests of amun in early dynastic times for the manipulation of the masses and they have continued theyre mass manipulation for thousends of years untill this present day. Words are powerful, use them wisely”
- The Capacity for Music: What Is It, and What’s Special About It?
Ray Jackendoff (Brandeis University) and Fred Lerdahl (Columbia University)
1. What is the capacity for music?
Following the approach of Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983; hereafter GTTM) and Lerdahl
(2001; hereafter TPS), we take the following question to be basic in exploring the human
capacity for music:
Q1 (Musical structure): When a listener hears a piece of music in an idiom with which
he/she is familiar, what cognitive structures (or mental representations) does he/she
construct in response to the music?
These cognitive structures can be called the listener’s understanding of the music – what the
listener unconsciously constructs in response to the music, beyond hearing it just as a stream of
Given that a listener familiar with a musical idiom is capable of understanding novel pieces
of music within that idiom, we can characterize the ability to achieve such understanding in
terms of a set of principles, or a “musical grammar,” which associates strings of auditory events
with musical structures. So a second question is:
Q2 (Musical grammar): For any particular musical idiom MI, what are the unconscious
principles by which a experienced listeners construct their understanding of pieces of music
in MI (i.e. what is the musical grammar of MI)?
Cross-culturally as well as intra-culturally, music takes different forms and idioms. Different
listeners are familiar (in differing degrees) with different idioms. Familiarity with a particular
idiom is in part (but only in part) a function of exposure to it, and possibly of explicit training.
So a third question1
Q3 (Acquisition of musical grammar): How does a listener acquire the musical grammar
of MI on the basis of whatever sort of exposure it takes to do so?
Q3 in turn leads to the question of what cognitive resources make learning possible:
Q4 (Innate resources for music acquisition): What pre-existing resources in the human
mind/brain make it possible for the acquisition of musical grammar to take place?
Our questions Q3-5 parallel the three questions posed by Hauser and McDermott (2003) in their discussion of
possible evolutionary antecedents of the human musical capacity. However, they do not pose these questions
in the context of also asking what the “mature state of musical knowledge” is, i.e. our questions Q1-2. Without
a secure and detailed account of how a competent listener comprehends music, it is difficult to evaluate
hypotheses about innateness and evolutionary history
- The Runic alphabet is also known as Futhark, a name composed from the first six letters of the alphabet, namely f, u, th, a, r, and k. In this way, “Futhark” is analogous to the word “alphabet”, which is from alphaand beta, the first two letters of the Greek alphabet. And why were the letters ordered in such a way. Nobody knows the answer, but it might been some form of mneumonic function that was not preserved.The first Runic inscriptions that have survived to the modern day dated from around 200 CE. The alphabet consists of 24 letters, 18 consonants and 6 vowels, as illustrated in the following chart:
Note: In the traditional transliteration of Runic inscriptions, the letter j stands for the semivowel /y/, and ystands for the vowel /ü/. The digraph th stands for /θ/, and ng stands for /ŋ/.
Traditionally, the 24 letters are divided into three groups of eight letters called ættir. In the previous chart, each row is an ætt (the singular of ættir). This means that f, u, th, a, r, k, g, and w belong to the first ætt;h, n, i, j, æ, p, z, and s belong to the second; and t, b, e, m, l, ng, d, and o belong to the third. Also, a rune has a position within each ætt, so for example, k would be the 6th rune in the 1st ætt, and t would be the 1st rune in the 3rd ætt.
What is interesting about these two numbers associated with every rune is that they can be used to write an alternate, “encoded”, version of the rune. An encoded rune consists of a central vertical line, with short horizontal lines left of the vertical line determined by the rune’s ætt number, and short horizontal lines on the right side determined by the rune’s position within its ætt, as illustrated below:
Some scholars have theorized that this alternate system of representing letters with vertical and horizontal lines has some kind of connection to Ogham, but no solid links have been found yet.
What are we doing when we read aloud?
Sam Duncan has been listening to what learners say about their experience of reading aloud
Raise the subject of reading aloud with a group of adult literacy teachers, and it’s likely you’ll be bombarded with war stories, from legends of managers or inspectors banning it, to tales of learners loving or hating it, or accounts of what has gone well or badly. But do we really know what we are doing when we read aloud?
That we say ‘reading aloud’ more often than we say ‘reading silently’ indicates that reading silently is now seen as the norm, the ‘natural’, and therefore reading aloud is the abnormal, the form that needs justifying. Yet, reading aloud was the norm in most of Europe until more of the population could read than couldn’t (probably about the mid to late 19th century in Britain). Reading became less a communal event and more an individual one, but the communal is still there; adult literacy learners may be more aware of this than others.
In my research into adult literacy learners’ perceptions of reading (presented at the NRDC International Conference 2008) , I interviewed 35 learners, asking them Hogan’s wonderfully phrased question ‘What are we doing when we read?’ . Their responses contain a range of insights into reading, including a strong emphasis on reading aloud. For these learners, reading aloud is two things: it is a method of improving their reading and a type of reading in its own right.
A method of reading
They spoke of reading aloud when alone as a way of facilitating the decoding process (their mouths moving to explore the links between symbols, sounds and whole words as both sound and meaning):
‘[when] I’m on my own at home, I’d read out loud … So I can understand the words and the sounds as well.’
‘It [reading aloud alone] helps you because you see the word and then you try to position your mouth to how the letters are written.’
They also spoke of reading aloud in groups to get feedback from others (‘others can help or correct you’) and of listening to others read while following the words on the page:
‘You know before, when we used to read in class yeah, I used to pretend I was following, but I wasn’t – but now I do follow it! And I notice that it helps me a lot … when someone’s reading it and you’re following it, it helps – if you can’t say that word, don’t know what that word is and someone’s reading it, and then it’s ‘oh yeah,’… That helps a lot, it does.’
A type of reading
Yet, these learners also spoke of reading aloud as a type of reading, something we do for particular purposes, such as reading the Bible or the Qur’an:
‘It’s better to read it [aloud] because you feel the words; every word you read you feel the word … maybe because this is the Holy Book, maybe that’s why I am putting all of my mind and my heart in it.’
Others spoke of the bedtime ritual of reading stories to children, and that hearing a story read aloud is important, ‘I like to hear stories … it’s the way, the tone of the voice…’ or that poems should be read aloud and listened to, in order for their meaning to be understood: ‘I like someone reading poems to me, yes poems, I understand when someone else is reading.’ In this way reading aloud is a social act, a life function – a type of reading.
What strikes me are the connections these learners stress – connections between reading aloud as an important social act and reading aloud as a way to get better at reading, as well as connections between things you do and things others do for you. For these learners, reading aloud, like reading silently, isn’t something we need to debate; it is already part of our lives.
Sam Duncan is an adult literacy coordinator at the Institute of Education, University of London, and a literacy tutor at City and Islington College