Fluid in a Language
In our last episode, we met a man with two brains and discovered that music led by the musical mind was a logical choice. Today’s episode is in full animation, and Animating Languages is our goal. We’re adding life and color to find a flow in the symbols, patterns, and original lingo as we broaden our idea of what makes a language. I’ve found some exciting similarities in my mental experience as I speak Italian, play blitz chess, and play music. Observations of the students aged six to seventy-six who play with me weekly confirm my experiences. These observations in the laboratory for developing storytellers of sound lead to new insights into understanding how we can play music better. The latest discovery comes with help from the twelve musicians also playing chess with me. Cross-training our brain has led to greater fluency in music and chess.
Fluency in a language is the ability to express oneself easily and articulately. Being fluent in music means expressing and articulating ourselves with a sense of rhythm, pitch, and style. Reading a page of music is a tiny part of playing music, and fluency in reading isn’t enough. Be fluid in music and let the page flow. Animating languages gives them a flow. Being fluid lets an animated language like music keep second-guessing from interrupting instinctual decision-making. Animating a language means expressing it with a fluidity and a flow that keeps the parts of your brain that want to figure from figuring. Thoughts don’t stick. Instead, they flow. Animating languages like Italian, Chess, and Music give them the fluidity needed to be expressed articulately and with an artistic touch.
Did Somebody Say Hello?
Imagine the first time that something on this planet understood another something’s message, and they communicated something together. It has taken millions of years of sharing messages in evolving methods changing and growing with the evolving things communicating with each other, to form the type of communication that goes on today. Did you follow that? Maybe as my language evolves, my words will gain clarity. As the human being has evolved, so has our language. Linguists estimate over 31,000 languages have existed in human history, and today 7139 languages will be used by humans to say good morning.
We can see and hear animals communicate in their languages and have even taught some to say good morning using ours. Plants communicate through their roots by secreting chemicals in the soil. These chemicals send signals to the other living things in the root zone. Plants also signal each other through the air. The smell of fresh-cut grass comes from chemicals grass releases when attacked by a predator, your lawnmower. Other plants respond to these airborne signals and adjust their internal chemistry to ward off other predatory lawn-trimming devices. Even a rock has something to say. Research of monuments such as Stonehenge and other megalith structures shows energy forces within them, connecting them with other monuments far away.
Writing Down Sound
The oldest musical notation discovered is the Hurrian Hymn No. 6, also known as the “Hurrian Song to Nikkal.” This ancient cuneiform tablet provides evidence of a sophisticated musical tradition and notation system over 3,400 years ago. The tablet contains a hymn written in the Hurrian language with a musical notation system. The notation consists of cuneiform symbols arranged in horizontal lines, representing the hymn’s melody. The symbols indicate the pitch intervals and the duration of the notes. The exact interpretation of the musical notation is not entirely clear.
Putting sound down on paper or rock had to be tricky. I imagine plenty of trial and error was involved. Students often share ideas of how they would do it, and we explore their ideas, always concluding that the current method is best. We use the same five-lined staves that appeared in Italy in the 13th century used by Ugolino da Forlì. The ability to read music can seem like a superpower, but it’s not necessary for a long and successful career in music. Paul McCartney admits that he can’t read music, and when Chet Atkins was asked if he could read music, he replied, “Yes, but not well enough to mess up my playin’.”
Touching and Seeing Sound
The language of music is more than dots on the page. It has a rhythm, a heartbeat. The page is alive, or at least has forward motion. That is, if there is a page. Some groups play without written music, but written music can make communication easier. When we’re all on the same page, we can play together quickly and give the composer what he imagined. A composer instructs the players to understand the desired style and sounds with words and symbols. That dot or squiggly line means something, and it is up to the performer to express those sounds on the page for someone to hear. Hearing the page when you read it is essential for a classical musician. It is a skill I’ve seen develop even in students labeled tone-deaf by themselves or others who’ve come to play with me.
Music is a language like math. An international language that looks the same in any country. Mathematicians all over this planet use the same numbers, symbols, and formulas to communicate their ideas. Likewise, musicians worldwide know the same staff and musical terms. Though mostly Italian, these terms can also be in the composer’s native language. When you play classical music, you might see English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and many more languages besides the Italian used for musical terms. If there are official languages of humanity, math, and music would be on the list.
Is Your Language Official?
The six official languages recognized by The United Nations, the world’s largest international organization, are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. This leaves the number of unofficial languages of the UN at 7133. Most of these languages are used by less than 1000 people, but millions of humans speak golf, chess, and music, and all are missing from the unofficial list.
Any subject that captures your interest has a language that you learn to speak as you get into it. Whether you’re running or sailing, driving or flying, or even cross-stitching, once you start doing something and learning about it, you start speaking its language. The language evolves as you gain experience, and voilà, you’re speaking the sailor’s language. Off the record, I think that our “unofficial language list of the UN” can use a broader definition of what makes a language.
The Long Drive
If you’ve ever heard a couple of golfers give the play-by-play of their round, they speak a language only golfers understand. They shoot eagles and birdies, avoiding the bogies, like bird hunters in a WWII dogfight. With slices and shanks, chips, and chilly dips, they might be talking about lunch at the 19th hole.
The Mating Net
A mating net might seem like a trap for catching a husband or wife, but chess players know about many different mating nets and weave them to checkmate an opponent’s king. A chess player talking about his chess game can sound like they’re using a code. You’ll hear numbers and letters describing the squares and phrases in French and German, like En Passant and Zugzwang. Beware the Elephant gambit!
Playing the Head
Hang out with some jazz cats as they put up their axes after a gig, and the poetry of their lingo becomes the desert for their concert. Even the classical trumpet player can sound foreign to the jazzer. Though playing the same instrument, they don’t even agree on how to play the eighth notes.
Going Beyond Language
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard states, “When you name me, you negate me.” Labeling or defining something can limit or distort its true essence or individuality. Kierkegaard argued that individuals possess a unique and subjective existence beyond mere categorization or classification. When someone is named or labeled, it can lead to assumptions, generalizations, and expectations that may not capture the full complexity and depth of their being.
In this perspective, naming can be seen as an attempt to impose a fixed identity or reduce someone or something to a predefined concept or category. It can limit the potential for individual growth, self-discovery, and recognizing one’s inherent complexity. Kierkegaard’s notion challenges the idea that language can fully capture or encompass the essence of a person or an object. It suggests that proper understanding and appreciation require a recognition of the inherent mystery, uniqueness, and individuality that cannot be fully expressed or contained by language or external labels. This concept is part of Kierkegaard’s broader existential philosophy, which explores themes of individuality, subjectivity, and the nature of human existence.
Your World, Your Language
Nobody sees the world that you see. All you see, hear, smell, touch, and feel are sent as signals from your senses into your brain, coming out as experiences you can think about. Only you see them the way you do. Maybe this is why we can seem so alone sometimes or why it is hard for two people to understand each other clearly. How you feel about this is your choice. Some choose to feel alone like nobody understands. Some see themselves as beautiful individuals, and opportunities for authentic connections drive them to try to find ways to express their thoughts and feelings to others.
Imagine your life and its evolution as the history of the world. Your world. When you were born, your world began, and so did your language. Language evolves over many generations, and your language has gone from gas and goos to the linguistic giant you’ve become today. And you’re never done. I thought I knew how I spoke, but then I started singing in Italian, and my accent changed. Writing these blogs has altered some of my word choices in lessons. Time and experience have built your language, and you’re the only one who’s been there all that time. Only one person has had all those experiences and influences that form your language. Animating your language and flowing with your thoughts should be natural. And still, we can struggle to find the right words to express ourselves. When words fail, there are other ways we communicate.
If Looks Could Kill
If your mother gives you “that look,” you may not know what you’ve done, but you know you’re in trouble. We understand that look before we have any thoughts about what to do. Do you have a friend who you must avoid eye contact with sometimes because, with one look, they’ll have you bursting into laughter? The laughter will come before you can stop, and maybe this isn’t the time or place for loud noises. Understand the look, and be the laughter. There’s no need for narration.
There’s no need to think when you are ready to do something. When action is required, act. Thinking about how to act, when to act, or why you act will only slow you down, and habits of overthinking are developed effortlessly. These habits can be challenging to become aware of. If you can trust in your training and have no care for the results, your actions will be steady and true. Just do it, and you’ll have no bumps from the hesitations of doubting and overthinking. With no middleman, your Inner Musician can take over and drive your musical machine. Who’s ready for action? Act two, “Animating Languages and ACTION,” awaits you.