I’m deciding to take advantage of “structured procrastination” (I should be studying for a French test) and write about simplicity – again. A recent digg article shot to the front page about webdesign simplicity. It wasn’t particularly insightful or newly informative. But it did practice what it preached: Link. Mirror(png). Noticed how it was technically in the common five paragraph essay format/structure.

This common format is taught around 6th or 7th grade and then internalized throughout high school where it becomes enforced in college and a necessity for intellectual life. A quick google search produces a simple to understand guide for this: JCU.edu

This past year I read “A Hacker Manifesto” and its unusual aphorismic format was immediately appealing. It succeeds in its brevity where the common 5-paragraph system fails. It does this by breaking the monogamy of argument-example. The main argument to maintain this relationship for the 5-paragraph format is to allow for ‘further understanding’ or “support” of the argument. It allows the reader to more appropriately understand the meaning and context of the body’s premise. But, for certain information, this is not a necessity.

Before I proceed: I recognize the irony in having to utilize the 5-paragraph format in my own writing and I also recognize that I’ll have to use an example to further explain my previous statement. This is only a handicap because I haven’t internalized the aphorismic method, yet. So: For instance, in the above digg article the main argument statements in each body is in bold. You may if you need further clarification/understanding read the body’s non-bolded text. But you could read and understand the entire essay’s point by simply reading those short one-sentence arguments.

This setup makes the logic of the essay more explicit. One of the first challenges schoolchildren have in understanding a block of text in an essay is by recognizing what and where the thesis statement is. In the previous example, there is no interconnected logic but rather an abundance of one-liner arguments. But most other essays, particularly philosophical ones, require step-by-step argumentation.

Consider a simple syllogism:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Now, if this logic was to be put under the two structures previously described, then you shall see which has its flaws.

Very simplistically, in the 5-paragraph structure you’d have something like this. The obviousness of the supporting statements may come off as stupid but this yet another unnecessary flaw in 5-paragraph sytem.

It is no mystery we humans live and die. Socrates was no different in this distinction. In this essay, I will argue that since men die, and that Socrates is a man, that Socrates has the potential to die.
All men are mortal. This is evidenced by numerous graves and the fact that there are no men who have lived forever. All the decedents of men have died. Since we are living things, we must be vulnerable to death. For example, etc. This manifestation of humanity allows for the analysis of one such man, Socrates.
Socrates is a man. This can be shown in so many ways such as the certain traits that compose “man” which are shared by Socrates himself. For example, he has a beard. Another example, is that he has male genitalia. It is now imperative I describe the most important trait Socrates shares with mankind: mortality.
Thus, because Socrates is a man and that all men eventually die, Socrates will eventually die. It is possible to see the effects of death by his deteriorating health and lack of pulse. The trail and eventual willful execution by poision was the proverbial final nail in the coffin.
I have thus shown the intricate reasons for Socrates’s own mortality. It is taken syllogistically from the major premise that all men are mortal to the minor term that Socrates is a man and finally to the conclusion that Socrates is mortal.

How unbefuckinglievably laborious was it to wade through that dumbfounded essay only to point out the obvious syllogistic logic that Socrates is mortal? This has to be done for virtually every argument presented by anyone. It is beneficial to do this for rather complex arguments and arguments which may require such laborious support but this is only mainly done to cater to the possible stupidity and ignorance of the reader. It is not something that is necessitated by the form or argument itself. In “A Hacker Manifesto” Wark employs a slightly different approach. It is a little synthetic in that it is between the extended form of the 5-paragraph essay and the minimalistic form I’m arguing which would be an Wittgensteinian essay composed entirely of propositions. Wark will have an abundance of propositions in regard to a central idea/subject. He will also support those propositions with sub-propositions which could be separate but are kept within a single paragraph due to their relevance to the main topic sentence. Quote:

In the frontline states of the old cold war, the forces of revolt were most successful. In Tawian, Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines; in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and the Baltic States, the forces of revolt pushed the old ruling classes toward a new state form, in which further movements toward abstraction at least have a fighting chance.

Revolt [237]

Two propositional statements. That whole paragraph could be dissertation. A dissertation analyzing the revolts in all those countries described, in support of a main thesis to describe the success of them as a movement toward Wark’s conceptualization of “abstraction.” Wark modeled his writing for “A Hacker Manifesto” on Debord’s “The Society of the Spectacle” Debord was influenced by Isidore Isou (here is his manifesto) and his hypergraphology theory and Lettrist movement. Another writer’s style whose relevance is undeniable is Wittgenstein. In his magnum opus, Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein dissolves philosophy by logical atomism through arguments about language and reality. In 80 or so pages it critiques philosophical analysis, language, logic, reality, with some ethical overtones and develops a ‘picture’ theory of propositions. Each theses is numbered (1 through 6, with a 7th and last proposition being his famous dictum: “Whereof one cannot speak, one must be silent.” or sometimes translated as “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”) and sometimes has sub-theses which are comments or elaborations on the main theses.

 

In fact, the entire ‘book’ can be simplified into 7 direct statements:

1. The world is all that is the case.

2. What is the case – a fact – is the existence of states of affairs.

3. A logical picture of facts is a thought.

4. A thought is a proposition with a sense.

5. A propositions is a truth-function of elementary propositions.

6. The general form of a truth-function is [p, E, N(E)].

7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

 

That’s it. If Wittgenstein had been forced into the 5-paragraph structure the book would be monumental. His simplicity highlights another flaw in the 5-paragraph paradigm which I consider to be a manifest contradiction. In English writing classes we are taught two things: critical thinking skills and essay writing skills. But, the ideology behind both in regard to the reader-writer relationship is contradictory.

 

The reader is taught to be skeptical and critically analyze the information presented in an essay. They are taught to avoid logical fallacies, and not become victims of persuasion. But, the writer is given intellectual tools which he/she is supposed to utilize to convince the reader that the writers arguments are not only valid but sound and true. Writers are also urged to utilize writing which is not explicitly intellectually dishonest but is just as a persuasive in trying to convert the reader to the writer’s philosophy. This doesn’t make sense. Everyone is a writer and a reader. If you are a writer, you must use as many tools at your disposal to ‘trick’ the reader into adopting your view with the least resistance. If you are a reader, you must use as many tools at your disposal to be critical and open minded so as not to fall into the writer’s ‘traps’.

 

Aphorismic writing is not illusory. It presents a proposition within a logically flowing piece of literature and it is up to the reader to critically analyze it. Analyze it on its own merits and its relation to other propositions in the text. In Aphorismic writing, the potential intellectual dishonesty of the 5-paragraph method is avoided while the information and logic of the argument is maintained.

 

I wrote this entry in part to ‘do’ something today. But I also wrote it to allow myself to synthesize all these thoughts which bounce around in my mind loosely tied together. I didn’t write an outline for this, I just sat and wrote. I feel that I have convinced myself that I want to convert to writing aphorismically. However, first, I’ll have to start internalizing that method.

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Plain Language: What is Plain Language?

I’ve wanted to find minimalists authors so that I can understand their economy of words in relation to the structure of their stories (plots, climaxes, descriptions and so forth) because I feel I’ve grasped a basic understanding of minimalism and simplicity in most other spheres (art, music, politics).

A few minimalist authors would be: Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Chuck Palahniuk, Emily Dickinson, Amy Hempel, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tobias Wolff, Grace Paley, Sandra Cisneros, Mary Robison, and Frederick Barthelme, Samuel Beckett.

Linguist and political critic Noam Chomsky developed a syntax theory based on minimalism. In fact he wrote a book on it: The Minimalist Program

For more: http://www.hikaripub.com/tips.htm#Mini

However, this seems oriented toward minimalism in technical writing especially when it sites the  Nurnberg tunnel series by John Carro.

Norman and Spolsky: Simplicity is Out

Been savin’ this. Awhile back Joel Spolsky and Don Norman came out with two articles against product simplicity. It eventually made its way to slashdot.org where /.’s informed users laughed, ridiculed, and analyzed their peices to utter destruction – rightly so. Norman and Spolsky completely missed the mark on both understanding simplicity and why simplicity is implemented – actually they even misunderstood the thing that they supported instead: complexity. Norman was gracious enough to come out with an addendum to his article in order to respond to some of the /. flak he got but, I think, despite his best efforts, he came up short and made the problem a little worse for his arguments.

First, Norman pops out with this:

“Why can’t products be simpler?” cries the reviewer in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the local newspaper. “We want simplicity” cry the people befuddled by all the features of their latest whatever. Do they really mean it? No.

But when it came time for the journalists to review the simple products they had gathered together, they complained that they lacked what they considered to be “critical” features. So, what do people mean when they ask for simplicity? One-button operation, of course, but with all of their favorite features.

No. For those journalists who demanded “critical” features (which essentially means necessary ones) simplicity does not mean “One button to rule all the functions.” It means exactly what they meant: Simplicity means having all the necessary features and no (or the least amount of) unnecessary ones. That’s the core motto of simplicity: necessity. It’s the core of Okham’s Razor – the grand philosophical quote of simplicity. Either quote is applicable be it the technical one: “entities shall not be multiplied beyond necessity” or the colloquial one: “The simplest explanation tends to be the right one.”

Granted, this manifestation of simplicity isn’t always “fair” to the engineer who tries to follow the 80-20 rule (as is discussed in Spolsky’s article) but that’s the very paradox engineer’s deal with. The only thing you, as an engineer or as a product designer, need to be concerned about is if you’ve applied the bare essential features to whatever product it is you’re selling.

Norman, when he suggests that simplicity means “one button” he should mean, or rather intends to mean, minimalism. The difference in understanding minimalism in relation to simplicity is best explained via painting – well maybe that’s just me with my art history background. A painting of one color is obviously minimalistic. A portrait painting of one man sitting in a chair in an empty room is simplistic. Minimalism is the view that tries to cut everything down to the core of expression. Conceptually, this means not merely getting rid of the excess – the unnecessary – but cutting down everything to the “singular” the “one” core peice of artistic expression that exists. Simplicity, although conceptually similar, allows for pluralities. It just must be understood that as long as everything included is absolutely necessary.

For some product designers – I’m guessing here – they’ll employ techniques of minimalizing as well as simplifying. Having one button do the work of two (like a pause/play button on an mp3 player) is minimalizing. Removing the calender nobody uses on an mp3 player – simplifying.

And while were discussing the terminology of simplicity it’ll be appropriate to quote the most worthwhile thing in Spolsky’s article:

If you’re using the term “simplicity” to refer to a product in which the user model corresponds closely to the program model, so the product is easy to use, fine, more power to ya. If you’re using the term “simplicity” to refer to a product with a spare, clean visual appearance, so the term is nothing more than an aesthetic description much in the same way you might describe Ralph Lauren clothes as “Southampton WASP,” fine, more power to ya. Minimalist aesthetics are quite hip these days. But if you think simplicity means “not very many features” or “does one thing and does it well,” then I applaud your integrity but you can’t go that far with a product that deliberately leaves features out.

The gut reaction here should clearly be that he’s leaving out the definition of simplicity of “that which has all the necessary features.” And, well, while I’m quoting Spolsky I did also have this to say.

Spolsky’s article is much more cogent and agreeable. But here I did a double-take:

Devotees of simplicity will bring up 37signals and the Apple iPod as anecdotal proof that Simple Sells. I would argue that in both these cases, success is a result of a combination of things: building an audience, evangelism, clean and spare design, emotional appeal, aesthetics, fast response time, direct and instant user feedback, program models which correspond to the user model resulting in high usability, and putting the user in control, all of which are features of one sort, in the sense that they are benefits that customers like and pay for, but none of which can really be described as “simplicity.”

That last clause of the last sentence through me. To me, the only things that struck me as being non-simplistic factors in 37signals/iPod’s success were “building an audience, evangelism, and direct and instant user-feedback.” Everything else has some direct or indirect relationship to the concept or aesthetic of simplicity. Doesn’t “clean and spare design” literally mean “simple design” and doesn’t “program models which correspond to the user model” refer to a “simple product model”?

Back to Stormin’ Norman.

Norman then comes out with these gems:

Describing toasters, refridgerators, and coffee makers: “all of which had multiple control dials, multiple LCD displays, and a complexity that defied description.”

Describing a Korean car’s dashboard: “A rear view mirror with an on-off switch? The salesperson didn’t know what it did either.”

Great. Now we’ve got products so complex we don’t even know what to call them or what the fuck they even are supposed to do. Supporting product complexity invariablly means that you propose a philosophy where the consumer wants less bang for his buck. Let’s revisit the 80-20 rule. It’s a rule of simplicity – if your demographic is that 80% who use 20% of the features – just implement that 20%. Spolsky’s insight is great when he says that the problem is most of the time it’s a different 20% of the features per consumer.  But if Norman is proposing a complexity situation it ends up meaning that 80% of the demographic will end up using much much less than 20% of the features!

Some are familiar with the recent press releases of Apple’s new iPhone (lawsuit pending). Its main features include mp3 player, camera, video player, web-browser, oh.. and apparently it’s a “cell phone” too. Say I buy that $500 cell phone. Say that most of the time I use it just as a cell phone. Setting aside “real” math, I’m using 1/5th of the phone’s features – ahh – 20%. However, if Don Norman had his say and this iPhone also had features like a scanner, portable video games, PDA, coffee grinder, and an intuitive “widget” engine then I’ll end up using 1/10th of the phone’s features – 10% at twice the price. Granted, I’m probably a stupid consumer for buying a product for one feature I use and 9 I don’t but with Stormin’ Norman on the prowl my money is being wasted twice as fast.

In trying to figure out this rather ridiculous conundrum of why these products were designed in such a way he goes on to say:

“Why is this? Why do we deliberately build things that confuse the people who use them?

Answer: Because the people want the features.”

No. Actually, you already had this question of yours answered just a few lines above your own answer:

“Why?” I asked my two guides, both of whom were usability professionals. “Because Koreans like things to look complex,” they responded. It is a symbol: it shows their status.”

It’s a Korean status symbol. It’s got nothing to really do with whether or not complexity and simplicity are universally virtuous aspects to have in a product. It’s just something of cultural significance. As far as I can tell, Americans on the other hand, don’t view complexity as a “status symbol.” Well maybe they do, but it certainly isn’t a favorable one. The past few years of Apple-crazed products and logo-less clothing lines as well as Tivo and RSS feeds and so forth is that simplicity, not complexity, is what is “in” and rightly so. In fact, I will even go so far as to argue that it is environmentally imperative that we focus on cutting down to bare essentials of living – and that means product design first and foremost. RSS feeds are being used to conglomerate numerous infosites into a singular simplistic interface for ease of use. Tivo cuts out the unessential and rather annoying experience of watching commercials for products I don’t want to buy and food I shouldn’t be eating. Life in Korea may favor complexity but life in America favors simplicity.

His addendum tends to encourage the rather fallacious way humans currently go about buying products based on design. It’s horrific to see someone come out and say this:

“We have to take human behavior the way it is, not the way we would wish it to be.”

…and mean it. It’s a very pessimistic quote is it not? Human behavior, Norman agrees, is fundamentally flawed. But because it is flawed is the reason why “We” (whoever “we” may be) should at least try to improve ourselves from our own flawed nature.

“Haven’t you ever compared two products side by side, comparing the features of each, preferring the one that did more? Why shame on you, you are behaving, well, behaving like a normal person.”

Consumers should be shamed. Perferring the one that did more when it does more than you need it to do is not “behaving like a normal person” it’s behaving like a glutton – it’s consumer greed and it is the great economical sin of the century.

Norman also talks about the consumer predisposition to conflate complexity with power. This, again, isn’t a virtue. It’s a fallacy which Norman encourages:

Sorry: it is the apparent complexity that drives the sale. And yes, it is the same complexity that frustrates those same people later on. But by then, it is too late: they have already purchased the product.

Is there some sort of Designer’s Ethics Committee that can censure this guy? This is the designer’s equivalent of a hooker saying “Hey, want a good time?” You: “Hell yeah!” You spend 200 bucks on a experience where half the time you’re thinking to yourself “I could’ve just gone home and beat my meat for free.” Then, once this horrible ordeal is over you have to check yourself for spots for the next 6 weeks.  You’re lured in and fucked.

Designers shouldn’t be conmen.

Complex things do not mean more power – if anything they mean less power in the realm of electronics. An mp3 player will tend to have a longer battery life if all it does is play mp3s. The new Apple iPhone is a video ipod, camera, phone, PDA, and web browser all-in-one. That is quite powerful. I don’t know if I’ll ever spend the $500 dollars on a phone (hah, and people were complaining about the price of the PS3! It’s a fucking super-computer media hub for crissakes) but if I do, I’ll get the one with the simplistic interface. But this Apple iPhone is not all that powerful after its 5 hour battery life. However, I had never thought of simplicity and complexity in their relation to power before – an interesting relation to consider too.

Norman also wrote the article: The Truth about Google’s so-called “simplicity”:
He comes out with these gems:

Why are Yahoo! and MSN such complex-looking places? Because their systems are easier to use.

A) No they aren’t. B) “complex” and “easy” are antonyms!

True [Google’s interface is simple], but that’s because you can only do one thing from their home page: search.

What do you mean “but”? Isn’t the point of a search engine to search? He follows up this quote with:

Anybody can make a simple-looking interface if the system only does one thing.

True, anybody can. Very few actually do.

If you want to do one of the many other things Google is able to do, oops, first you have to figure out how to find it, then you have to figure out which of the many offerings to use, then you have to figure out how to use it. And because all those other things are not on the home page but, instead, are hidden away in various mysterious places, extra clicks and operations are required for even simple tasks — if you can remember how to get to them.

Did it ever occur to you that you could just search for something on Google? Fucking Christ Norman. Saying something along the lines of “How do you find something on Google” is about as stupid as looking up the word “dictionary” in the dictionary.

It hides all the complexity by simply showing one search box on the main page. The main difference, is that if you want to do anything else, the other search engines let you do it from their home pages, whereas Google makes you search through other, much more complex pages. Why aren’t many of these just linked together? Why isn’t Google a unified application?

Because Google isn’t an operating system with a desktop. It’s a search engine with peripheral applications its linked to based on its success of buying out innovative companies. You aren’t looking for a search engine – you’re looking for GoogleOS or some massive website that is an amalgamation of all those products you want in one tight website riddled with links to applications you intermittently use. People use Google (lemme pull a statistic out of my ass) 90% of the time to search for fuck-all. Sometimes they need a map, sometimes they need the news and sometimes they want to check mail or their calender. All of this is a click away. When I use Google to search for something, I don’t need the latest information in my calender or mailbox and I sure as hell don’t need to see a map of the US. I need a text box and button titled “I’m feelin’ lucky.” Thats. It. And that’s the point.

Gospel of Judas

April 7, 2006

I'm not one to write about religious archeology (or anything even spiritual for that matter), but this is interesting. Apparently.. after 1,700 years the Gospel of Judas has been found.

NYtimes

In this version, Jesus asked Judas, as a close friend, to sell him out to the authorities, telling Judas he will "exceed" the other disciples by doing so.

…is considered by scholars and scientists to be the most significant ancient, nonbiblical text to be found in the past 60 years.

Keep in mind, those "Gospels" are not written by themselves. Judas did not write this, partly because of the oral tradition and partly because… well… why would he? Certainly the language is questionable. Anyways… the gnostic text is interesting, maybe not vastly detrimental or controversial since it coincides with a lot of hypothesises made by theologians current and old but interesting nonetheless. It'll sure piss off a few people with damaged or underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes.. Come on Sapolsky you know what I'm talkin 'bout!

Hierarchal thought

March 28, 2006

Today I felt I had ruminated enough about the current textbook we're reading in my English 5 class to contribute to the class discussion. I spouted a bunch of ideas around that had been bouncing around my head: Jensen's semi-violent, unbalanced, philosophy of whiteness, whether or not whiteness is referring specfically to white people or to the ideology of white supremacy; the power structure of his philosophy. And then a girl (who will remain nameless as I haven't asked or been given permission to use her elegant name), said something as I was immediately thinking it. It's as if she took a spoon and scooped the idea directly out of my brain. Which isn't a bad thing, it's just somewhat exhilirating (or rather validating) to be thinking something and then here someone else say it. 

It's a concept which I have begun to notice more and more as fundamental to a lot of the problems we had been discussing in class in regards to gender, race, and economics, as well as the philosophy my father and I were discussing during our Arizona vacation. It's called hierarchy.  It's a concept which pervades so much of western ideology that it is, in large part, responsible for so many social and political dichotomies. Patriarchy, white supremacy, low vs middle vs upper class, the humility to God as a "supreme" being.. etc. And I've also begun to notice fixed versus growth mindsets as being relational to hierarchical thoughts also. For instance, it's a "fixed" mindset that people should, by nature, "know their place." But it's a growth mindset and non-hierarchal belief that people either "are equal" or should be "treated equal." It's growth because it goes against 300 years of patriarchal, heterosexist, and white supremacists ideals. 

Robert Jensen's book has way too many flaws, is way too exclusive a philosophy, and is associated with a realm of ideas which i don't think should be a part of any current philosophy (such as hate and anger). So I won't accept it, but he does nonetheless raise excellent points and questions. His conclusion probably has the most merit of his book though.

I'll edit this once I come back from the Biology of Individuality lecture.  

Behold! I have finished 440 pages of the nerdiest book I’ve ever read! All in all, it was extremely enlightening. I got through about 14 essays before I began to just finish the book off with essays that actually seemed interesting like “The Brain that makes music and is changed by it.” I’ll break down some of the essays in the book which seemed most intriging. After this I’ll probably be reading Color: the Secret Influence and while I’m in Arizona I’d really like to finish a book on Arvo Part and his tintinnabuli style.
Evolution:

There’s 2 solid essays about the role music may have played in evolution but other essays revist the evolution of music from time to time. Unfortunately all of the ideas about the origins of music are strictly speculative. Essentially they say that music stemmed from either a linguistic need or a social need. Species/social groups would use music to establish territory (think the present-day howler monkeys), as well as establish cultural individuality. They also make sure to include the idea that music may have been a form of proto-language, or should I say, pre-language. It makes a lot of sense when you consider that music consists of rythm, pitch, tone, and timbre. All these aspects are pretty much the same aspects of lanuage. Mainly spoken language, but there is enough flexibility of music to make comparisons to written work such as poetry, in fact there is a great essay in the last section about comparing the sounds of music to a Robert Frost poem. Darwin, however, suggested that language predates music.

One pretty interesting finding was a flute fashioned from a bone (I want to say it’s a wolf femur but I frankly don’t remember, I might be mixing that up with the wolf bone found which suggested that cavedwellers had a sexigesmal number system). This suggests that music, specifically wind instruments that predate percussion (drums) instruments, was used in upwards of hundreds of thousands of years ago instead of recently (as in the last 5,000 years). What was strange was that the flute was found in a Neanderthal excavation. That’s right… music came before our modern day species of homo sapien. And this ALSO suggests that music pre-dates PAINTING!
Infant Predispositions and Temporal Universals:

Apparently, infants have the same musical predispositions as most adults, but just not as specialized. Basically, they aren’t as judgemental of dissonant sounds. Infants will focus more attention to higher-pitch simple ratio sounds than barotone complex ratio sounds. This, as they suggest, correlates to the music babies listen to from their mother’s singing. A woman’s speaking voice is lower than that when they are talking to a child. Their speach to their children is higher still than their singing voice. This high-frequency sounds in a woman’s speach to their infant is probably a way of transmitting much needed emotional information to the infant. 3 month infants are barely able to cognitively distinguish dissonant (unpleasant, unharmonious) music from consonant (pleasant, harmonious, expectational) music. From 6 to 9 to 12 infants continue to become more discriminant of tones, pitches, and tempos.

A later chapter basically confirmed the ancient claims of previous scientific theories of musical consonance, specifically Pythagorus’s claim that people prefer simple ratios to complex ratios. People will enjoy octavs that are something like 3/4, 2/3 and consider ratios like 16/25, 36/45 unpleasant. There is evidence of this all the way to neuronal activity. Without going too techincal (and because I don’t have the book anymore and just going of what I remember) dissonant sounds will cause uneven periodicity in brain activity (maybe even brain waves) whereas consonant, simple ratio, sounds do.

The infamous and notorious myth of the “Mozart Effect”

Debunked. The writer goes off on a dozen or so experiments and studies which attempt to suggest a correlation to listening to Mozart and an increase in intelligence and pointing out where and why they failed to properly make the connection. Mainly because, there isn’t one. Previous chapters essentially prove that there is no specific area of the brain concerned specifically with just music or just language (unlike motor control). Language and music are inherently connected but are different enough in that people who are suffer from amusic (tone deaf) are still able to understand and speak in tonal languages (like Chinese). So it is, in part, so far, inaccurate to make the connection that listening the Mozart will enhance non-musical areas of the brain. But that doesn’t mean there absolutely isn’t a connection, just that any attempts and finding the connection have not been valid enough to be considered proof.

Music and Emotion

What was interesting here is that they suggest that music doesn’t express specific emotions but rather induce emotions through common cues. Slow, unrythmic music will induce sad and relaxed emotions whereas fast, rythmic music will induce happy and energetic feelings. But music, unlike R. G. Collingwood’s theories of art, do not express emotion explicitly but rather mimic emotions by using similar triggers. Consonant and dissonant tones can be used to cause conflicting emotions or series of emotions as well. Because music is (or can be) highly organized and pattern oriented, we tend to expect certain sounds to be played, all the way to the point of prediction and musicians can either confirm these predictions which gives rise to validation and resolution, or revolt against these assumptions/predictions which will give rise to tension/stress and confusion.
____

There are other areas the book covers but these seemed the most interesting and the easiest to summarize and grasp (one being a very muddled discussion of where in the brain high-pitch frequencies are oriented in the brain versus low frequencies). I kinda wish I had been writing notes while reading this book (which I really should have done since it’s a scientific book) or at least practices marginality (but it’s a university library) book, so I probably should’ve bought the book. Unfortunately, the essays are really disorganized if you are reading the book sequentially. Each section is has an unhealthy balance of muddled writing and clear writting. The first essay on evolution was ridiculously and unnecessarily florid that I could barely understand a single sentance. The second essay on evolution, by David Huron, was way more accessible and now that I think about it was simply a restating of a lot of the concepts described in the first essay.

I figure now I can pretty much read any book that I want and not worry about how confusing it’s writting will be, how complex the ideas (except maybe some advanced mathematics books) are, or how drab and unattentive the subject matter.