this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Category: Listening

an anecdotal review of a film i saw on a weekday once

It begins at a mall with my father and youngest brother. It is interesting where we begin, or rather where we find ourselves beginning to speak. And it’s a mall, across the street from yet another mall, and it’s my father who says it’s a fun movie which I doubt, and it’s my younger brother who tells me I probably won’t like it. We pay. We watch previews and advertisements respectively which, given their ordering, I am assured are discrete things. Welles was obsessed with the camera as an eye. As a view and an ordering of things. Cinema is an answer. Maybe the questions are always asked after the fact, but what you walk into a film asking seems salient at any rate. And when walking in, and yes, paying, paying to be let in, and see The Avengers, one asks questions or presumes them.

The ultimate feeling one gets before the giant vision of a screen of men is an comforting finitude.  There is a woman somewhere in the film who thrives on the insecurities of less heroic men. Some have made mention that this is a radical statement about the subjectivity of being a woman or maybe it’s a radical statement about the movie industry or maybe it’s an ironic critique of the sidelining of women or how sexuality is always a failure. Maybe we are all black widows to the corporate America we are led to believe S.H.I.E.L.D. fails to be. Tony Stark succeeds and we know this because he is an all American heterosexual white male hero—a category the slightly flaccid Rogers reminds Stark he fails at. Supposedly the ending of the film disproves Rogers because Captain America fails to have wings or a jetpack or anything really other than nationalistic virtue and a proclivity for sticking around. Tony Stark due to presumably not going public or by dipping into the company pocketbook bravely teaches us that only CEO’s can enter the void of the universe. This is what the film means by vengeance.

On more than one occasion the film whispered to me I was Banner who is perpetually avenging himself against himself which gives him definite contours of self-reflexivity. Banner is something of a William Burroughs without conviction. Perhaps the most relatable in his awkwardness, which is yet another failure, but also most complicit in his passivity, Ruffalo plays a sort of Kubrick Joker or Alex or whatever Tom Cruise’s titular male porn star character in Eyes Wide Shut was called. This is perhaps why Mark Ruffalo makes so many romantic comedies. In both his romantic comedies and The Avengers, Ruffalo’s nudity plays a prominent role.

Stark wants you to think the Hulk is the real Banner or that Banner is some alter not-Hulk, meaning the dissonance or resistance to capital is a sort of negative narcissism. To be angry is to succumb. Unless of course you smash which is something sadly Banner never quite does to Stark or S.H.I.E.L.D. but who knows what will happen in the next movie or two. For now he dares not destroy our big American submarine-boat-helicopter, but of course we do with our imaginations, if not for justice ,at least for the spectacle of justice. And this is why they chose Loki as the protagonist of the film—an honestly corrupt fellow with nude paradoxical limbs rendered seamlessly explicit.

And here we have these various men who bring with them worlds, both literal and metaphorically literal, and politics and ideologies and general mythos to bear on our protagonist’s oedipal problems. We are led to like this or that particular instantiation according to plot and whim.  These moments of dissonance, world scraping world, seem the most pleasant—who doesn’t love the frottage of a Captain America and Iron Man after all? Of course we know the phallus of corporate America will win out in the end, the flaccidity of post-WWII America having become an overstated albeit nostalgic fact.

I must tell you at some point in the center of the film I left to use the bathroom and I don’t think I missed too much or rather I experienced something other people in the theater probably didn’t get to. There is a fight near the end and some extra stuff if you stick around through the credits which, as an exercise, is meant to lead us to believe is not part of the film. When I saw Thor eating a sandwich it was the closest I came to sympathy with any character throughout the film. Oh and someone died near the beginning which was sad because he was being paid by the government to make guns.

We left shortly thereafter and argued about this and that about the film but really we were talking about each other and how afraid and guilty we all are. If we could truly love each other I bet I would’ve liked the movie a lot more. If I had to remake the movie I think I’d cast Jack Kerouac as Captain America, Esther Newton as Tony Stark, GWF Hegel as Thor, Teddy Roosevelt as Hawkeye, Bjork as Black Widow, Loki played alternately by Michel Foucault and VI Lenin, Leonard Cohen as Bruce Banner, and Nina Simone as the Hulk. Of course Samuel L. Jackson would reprise his role.

We would film on location at the edge of the universe and the earth respectively and I imagine we’d shoot on an iPhone. I’d then project it on my breast, film it with my webcam, and upload it in segments to youtube. Naturally, I’d sue any theater or distributor who dared play it for copyright infringement (and maybe something about distributing pornography as well). No one would die though and we’d open with everyone eating sandwiches and end with a shot of Charlie Chaplin as a marine alternatively crying and trying on outfits but sort of smiling in between. If you stuck around until the very end you’d get to see a special little scene where we show you the names of all the people who worked on the film.

There are No Good Men, No Not One

I’ve been having a fun little back and forth with a friend’s post over at the The Evangelical Outpost. You can find the whole of the post as well as my comments here. The gist of the article, which you should really read if you want more than my bad summation, is that it’s offensive to refer to men as boys or to treat them like boys. If a man is guilty of boyish behavior, one should treat him like a man, that is, address the responsibilities he is failing at, rather than resort to inaccurate name calling. My last comment summed up my position I thought pretty well, so just for the hell of it I thought I’d repost it here:
After some basic criticisms of this idea of a “man” and why I think self-identified “boys” or “bois” should be called what they want to be called (cause it’s nice), Nathan (the author) responded,

Whatever semantic labels you prefer, the fact is that people gain responsibilities as they age and sometimes they shirk those. I hope that in talking to people who turn away from responsibility we can show them that they do not have any semantic hiding places that will save them from what they are doing.

To which I wrote as follows [edited for spelling and grammatical error],

Yeah. I’m pretty sure I get the broader point about responsibility. And I agree about semantic cubbies and hiding places. But also semantics shapes the cubbies. It’s the mountains to the valley–complete with snowy peaks and potential landslides. It’s important to periodically stroll through and maybe close down an unsafe road or two.

It’s this correlation between being adult, masculine, strong, and virile with responsibility that I guess I was trying to push back against. Of course we give children responsibilities and we should be forgiving towards adults. If it’s a question of responsibility, all fine and dandy, but children have taught me a lot about responsibility and adults have at times been disappointingly repressed, irresponsible, and narcissistic. It’s not so much how to balance these two (adult/responsible with child/irresponsible) but more unlearning the ways we’ve been taught to privilege adults and trivialize children.

It seems like the source of frustration for you was this category “boy” and how it was implying you weren’t fit for or outside of certain responsibilities. I agree with you–it’s trivializing and dismissive. Yet it’s not just trivializing and dismissive to you, but to boys and children in general, while also assuming adults are way more secure and essential than they are. Just as the male who dismisses someone as a “boy” positions himself as a firm and solid “man,” so too joining in with calling all boys irresponsible positions you and I and all males into a comfortable category of “man.” It becomes this very sort of semantic hiding place–a means of coping by bullying those we’d like to think weaker and smaller than ourselves. It buttresses our own insecurities with a safe semantic and social shell, shirking responsibility of ourselves while scapegoating others.

So I guess my problem is a binary that’s so neat it pretends boys, and children in general, are irresponsible and men/adults are responsible. Like childhood is some bit of ash we must pass through to really, truly, finally be born. But children were born and are people and no less real. We give children responsibilities according to what they can and can’t do just like we do for adults. We expect them to follow through just as much. They have voices and stories worth telling and it’s nothing shy of narcissism to turn a deaf ear, thinking ourselves to have come much farther then they. After all, the kingdom belongs to such as these–a kingdom where there is no “man” or “woman.” I’d like to think St. Paul wasn’t just thinking about gender or birth-sex but birth, growth, maturity, aging, and dying. Ultimately, I think The City of God might be a little less “mature” and “civil” than we think, and just a bit more like Neverland.

you are naked

you are naked

 

as a matter of course. even

your anchorage is a

levitation. below, the foothold,

 

a metonymy, something the world

spit up. everything

you hold is an implication really, a

 

line, some condensation on an edge

of the real. did i fail

to mention it’s raining. sometimes

 

it hits so hard it’s the rain

that’s penitent. the

trees were so wet then we wrung

 

them out right onto the carpet. we

dug our feet

deep inside. the coolness.

 

the bits of it sticking to lip

and tongue.

when you wrapped around

 

from behind and held tight till

I was blue, the

window burst, and with your ears

 

falling to the ground, I couldn’t help

but cry till you

whispered stop stop please it’s

 

february the blossoms are in

bloom your palms

are much too cold for this

Top 5 things I hate being asked in a bar; OR: on the frustration of labels

Forgive the lack of blogging recently—I’ve had yet another occurrence of strep throat (a somewhat common relapse for me) plus was writing a piece of music for a new music concert (the piece is called Things arise and she lets them come—catch the Tao reference, huh? huh?), and thus was a little out of the blogging loop. That being said, I finished the piece (feel free to shoot me an e-mail or post a comment or whathaveyou and I can send you a copy) and am getting over the strep.

So. In order to ease my way back into the comfort ability that is my blog, I thought I’d post a list of the top five things I get super frustrated at when asked at a bar (and by super frustrated I mean answer with a smile and no noticeable difference until I wake up steeped in depression or frustration the next day).

Number 5: Are you a vegan for health or ethical reasons? The answer, of course, is YES. This question was really annoying back when I smoked, because it often took the form, “WAIT, you’re vegan??? BUT YOU SMOKE??? THAT’S FUNNY!!! HAHAHA” etc. Like. YES. I get the irony that smoking causes cancer and that red meat increases the risk of cancer but you know, that’s not the ONLY reason for being vegan. Like. There’s that whole commercialization and reduction of life to a commodity. You know. That part. Of course when I would tell the person this, upon hearing the word ‘commodity’ used in a non-positive way the person instantly would go through this thought process: “commodity, huh? sounds like Marx… therefore communism.. therefore Stalinism… therefore fascism.. therefore some offensive analogy involving Hitler!” If the person is nice, however, they usually list all the positive things about veganism and why they *can’t possibly* be vegan. This ranges from being allergic to soy, gluten intolerance, anemia, and other such reasons that if you know something about veganism aren’t very good excuses at all.

Number 4: Some demeaning question about being a poet. This one can take a few different forms, but it typically rides off of being asked where I plan on going to grad school or what I plan on studying. It usually is followed by the other person proceeding to tell me how they really loved poetry in junior high and wrote some great ‘haikus’ (‘haiku’ is plural, damn it!) and got one published in the school paper and it was swell and they wish they could’ve followed their dreams of being a professional haiku-ist but then they had to get like a real job and start earning money and being a real member of society. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone give me a compliment for trying to take my poetry seriously without being extraordinarily patronizing or demeaning. One annoying aspect about being asked about my poetry is it tends to lead to the other four annoying questions, i.e. “oh what are your poems about?” “Well, it’s often me processing through ecological, personal, and sexual issues by taking up the metaphors of each, so, like seeing what sort of ideas and images arise when we put queer theory and say animal rights into a poetic blender and see what comes out.” Blank stare, slightly confused and disgusted face upon hearing the words ‘queer,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘blender’ in succession. “Ummm… animal rights… uhhh… so are you vegan (if so, for health or ethical reasons?)” ETC.

Number 3: Music composition grad? So… are you in a band??? This question can also take the form of, “Composition… huh…. so… what instruments does that mean you play?” or “Oh yeah! Like John Williams” or “oh wow—I play guitar!” Now. I love music. And I love talking about music. But for some reason people feel the need to categorize and label everything about someone when in a bar, and most people don’t know the labels ‘concert music,’ ‘art music,’ ‘contemporary classical,’ or a host of any others. Which causes the confusion of thinking I write film music. Let’s get one thing straight—I. DON’T. WRITE. FILM. SCORES. I have loads of respect for people who do, but, as should become obvious at this point in the conversation (people normally have blazed through a couple of these questions before this one), I DON’T WANT TO WORK FOR DISNEY. I’M NOT A HUGE FAN OF CAPITALISM. I don’t know how this could not be excruciatingly obvious by this point.

Number 2: So you went to Biola/a Calvary Chapel High School, so you’re a Christian then? This means one of two things. Either the person is about to list everything about contemporary evangelical Christianity I hate as the greatest thing since sliced bread (I LOVE CHRISTIAN ROCK!!1!!—this tends to lead to, WAIT, YOU WRITE MUSIC, ARE YOU IN A CHRISTIAN ROCK GROUP  ❤ !!1!), or they are about to preach to me all the woes that Christians have tragically done to certain people groups at times and places. I wish saying, ‘No no, I’m not like them—I’m ANGLICAN/EPISCOPELIAN’ was a valid excuse, but, you know, like Anglicans can be pretty evangelical and the whole fact that the Church of England was killing Quakers and Puritans and such was sort of how that whole colonization/conquest of the Americas kinda got underway doesn’t help either. And I wish saying I was a liberal or secular or materialist or even atheist Christian clarified. But. This usually results in *more* hostility seeing as the other person most likely hates organized religion, but is a quasi-Cartesian dualist (but the kind that would even make Descartes twinge), who loves talking about ‘soul-mates’ and a ‘feeling of the beyond.’ When I say I think ‘soul’ is just another means of talking about the body and concerning oneself with doing good in order to be rewarded in an afterlife is ressentiment, you shouldn’t *need* a reward in order to be nice, AND I think liturgy and prayer and meditation are great, well… it doesn’t always go over super well.

Number 1: So you like boys, right? OR: So you like girls, right? One. NO. I happen to like consenting adults, thank you very much. Secondly, WHY WHY WHY do you feel entitled to ask me who and why and when and how I have sex? Is that anyone’s business other than my own and the people involved? Seriously, people. I have told people I’m straight, bisexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, and demisexual all while at bars—all only kind of true—mostly false and just a means to avoid conversation. People want a simple label. And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t share a drink with someone, chat maybe, without them feeling like they ought to label and appropriate my entire sexual identity into a neat little category so as to prevent them having to adjust their worldview (usually a neat homo/hetero binary). I don’t exactly feel like going into my entire psychical and sexual history with someone I don’t know in order for us to drink together—and the few times I have it hasn’t exactly gone well (‘ahhh… so you’re in the closet!’; ‘but you *would* sleep with so-and-so’; ‘so you mean you’re bi? Yeah—me too! I kissed a boy/girl once!’; ‘well, I only ask because my friend thinks you’re *really cute*’ etc).

All this is to say I’m kind of sick of going out and having to squirm into other people’s categories or feel like I have to deconstruct everyone else’s worldview when all I want to do is have a drink.[rant and self-pity therein concluded thusly].

A sound of water

A sound of water

and you are awake to the smell of ash and his or her taste and smell along thigh and wrist (where, late night, even you who are so in love, wore such self-pity and

loathing: had to make real, you said, to present, to make present what was real

in ways unreal to those who had loved once or twice, or, and perhaps you know, even here and now). Awake—showing the sheet kicked, idling the butt-end of the mattress—the slyness of you gathering bag, coat, and other clothes like so much plastic waste. And what is

this, darkened in shadow, naked, and wet in the cool of the hall,

so distant and full of desire?

eyes closed, bedside

Dreamt last night of the ghost of her going.

Howls at the touch of intricate fabric. The tearing down of corridors held tight like stitching across the brow where you touched marble, split upside to spill the hatred out of

younger days (your brother, chasing to catch such passing).

And older you rest on the cusp of these chances, scarred but wiser; and, grown cynical, quit the hold of the ghouls of intimacy, sounds of things unseen: father,

there were whispers of your faith, incantation to seraphic beasts, arm folded on breast—then, wishing your children a goodnight sleep, head downstairs to rest.

we all had a good time

Processing: I am doing more of it. This is a short (and sweet?) poem, hopefully small enough for the smallness it deals with–but small things deserve attention too, right?

 

we all had a good time

 

and when

it was finally

 

over, some

-thing about

 

the copy of

On the


Genealogy

of Morals you

 

leant me, that

I read as

 

we broke and

hardened

 

and broke,

made me

 

this morning,

cigarette

 

in hand, cry

out one

 

small, quiet

-ing laugh

 

listen before you look

That wren–

looking here, looking there.

You lose something?

–Issa

Whenever we look around, cast our eyes from side-to-side, we are looking for something. We don’t need to know what, but something about directing our gaze over something communicates both to ourselves and everyone around us we are. Thus Issa can see the wren staring and know, instinctively, that something is lost to the wren. Likewise when my eyes pass over the scene at the coffee-shop, people cannot help but seem to respond inquisitively as to what I want of them; they respond, in turn, with a loss of there own, perhaps a loss as to why I am looking or what I am looking for. The man in the corner eyes a girl across the room and I know is looking for love–his gaze tells me so and I know by his very looking he feels he has a loss and is looking to satisfy it. Same with the couple arguing in the table in front of me. Each trying to search the other for meaning or something to convince him or her of the other’s point. Maybe the husband’s eyes communicate he has lost the relationship, he is cut off and refuses to allow the possibility that this person in front of him could be right.

This is the paradox of sight: the grand deception that in this loss, the essential lack of looking, I can find possession. I focus my eyes, my field of sight, on the refrigerator and I think I “know it,” I have somehow grasped it mentally, reflected it. Yet, as I said, this is an illusion because it does not account for the loss in vision. By looking at it I am already looking for it–I already have carved out in me the loss I am looking for. Think of the man in the corner eyeing the girl. He already has carved out mentally what it is he is looking for, a sort of recessive mold of the girl he feels he lacks and should “have.” He already possesses the loss–looking is merely an outward bearing of this “fore-having,” his already possessing the mental form. Yet, as we know, looking at her is not enough; whether his intentions are sinister or holy is irrelevant, on some level he wants to feel he “has” her, that he possesses her. And here is the paradox again, that sight is the outward bearing of a loss that simultaneously lays claim to or possesses the lost object.

And it is here, in the image of sight and illumination, that western metaphysical philosophy and subsequent discourses of reason find their beginning–that looking at the thing, making an assessment of it visually, has explained or in some way given the thing to me, object-ified it. Since the pre-Socratics light and vision have been the primary metaphor for thought: seeing the light of truth, seeing in light of something, light of the eye, the mind’s eye, etc. This paradox then is at the heart of ocularcentric thought, that in talking about the thing I bear a loss, an already carved out mental category or container for the thing, and proceed to argue to fill in this very loss. But, like the lone man in the corner, this attempt to exhaust any one thing is simply futile, he is only using his very loss to justify his loss to himself. Ocularcentric thought then can be characterized by reciprocal self-pity–this is why so many philosophic systems devolve into rank solipsism.

Ultimately then it is the illusion of possession we find in sight that brings us this paradox. If we could address the loss as a loss, with no since of entitlement or justification, then perhaps we, both on a personal and philosophic level, could overcome this paradox. Essentially this is what psychoanalysis is, the attempt to reveal the trauma, the wound, as essentially a lack or loss and deal with it rather than cover it up with self-pity, projection, deferral, etc. I think this sense of entitlement in vision stems in large part from visions limits, or, conversely, from our capacity to focus. As we said before looking is always a looking for, inherently expressing some loss. We only know one is gazing at us by the direction of the gaze–his or her eyes communicate to us that they are looking for us. It is in this “looking for” that we find entitlement, the man looking for just a certain type of woman he has already etched out in his mind, already possessed.

Listening differs drastically from sight in this way, I cannot help but take in all sounds equally. Sure, I could focus on one sound over another, I can listen to the refrigerator’s low hum but at the same time I cannot help but hear the lawn mower buzzing and birds chirping outside the window. And, it is true, I can also “listen for” sounds, as in the voyeur overhearing a private conversation. But this sort of listening is antithetical to listening as it usually is–we could say that these are visual metaphors we have taken up into listening (as likewise when we try with sight we can give up “looking for” things and merely take in the whole field of vision, not focusing or gazing, when we close our eyes for instance, but these are all atypical to seeing as such). For listening is always open-ended, many sounds pass through its field as expected but there are always unknown sounds, uncanny sounds, divine sounds. Listening does not lay claim to objects in the same way the gaze does, in fact, listening does not object-ify like vision does at all. Because listening is so much grounded in the temporal (my eyes can follow objects moving through time, but sounds come and go out of my aural field) often times we do not even classify sound phenomena as one or two “objects,” we simply let sounds sweep through us.

My solution to ocularcentric thought is not so much an answer then as a question. What would philosophy as listening look like? What if we stopped trying to explain or account for things as isolated objects but merely listened to them, in all their temporal and spatial instability? What would we hear with the mind’s ear? What would we see if we stopped looking?

sounds beyond us: the divine and uncanny in the womb

Sound is resonance. No sound occurs truly spontaneously, but is always the coming together of objects—the breath vibrating the body, vibrating the horn whose brass in turn sings, the bow on string, mallet on drum or cymbal. There is the action, breath, and the space that contains and responds to the act, the body of the instrument. Word likewise is the breath bringing forth sound out of space. This is the word of the Judeo-Christian god, the god who speaks into being, the breath made flesh in the speaking, the breath bringing shape to the void—sound that creates. The god cloaked in shadow whom to see is death can still be heard if given the space to resonate. Where there is no space to resonate there is no voice to be heard. Space is the home of sound.

We rarely think about the fact that our ears become fully formed in the womb. Before we have any sense of placement or vision beyond our own bodies we hear the world around us, objects devoid of placement or presentation, a content-less form. In this our mother acts as our resonating chamber, like the body of the stringed instrument or piano, the sound we are first attuned to. She is our shelter from the outside and the foreign, while yet introducing it to us by its resonance, its distance. Before we can see beyond ourselves we listen. Freud was not so far off then in saying we desire to return the womb, the pure dependability and attachment of our first home. The mother is really the first appropriated other, the first thing we experience beyond ourselves yet feel entitled to. What confusion must have struck us at birth! To move beyond the self and into a world of sharing, sacrifice, hierarchy, rebellion. To be on the very fringe of language and aural intelligibility—the sounds of the outside before we ever knew of an inside or outside. What to do but cry? What to do but mimic those unknown resonances of beyond-the-womb, the inner workings and intimacy of the mother’s body, the tapping of the hand to the belly, the words and songs of comfort or distress. I wonder if those first attempts at sound are a child’s first grasp of language, the opacity of the cry signifying an infinity of meaning. Signifying perhaps the splitting of single, simple existence into polyphony, alterity, the sudden shock of distinction: inside and outside, here and there, sounds to objects, and the self to other.

The womb as chamber of resonance then is where we learn the notion of the voice of god, or where we first experience it—a sound without a body, pure resonance. This takes the form of the god of hope just beyond my immediate viewpoint, the god at the horizon who is always beyond and orchestrating the seeming chaos. This can also be the sinister god though, the spider-god, the noises that go bump in the night whose body is beyond imagining. This is the noise of the ghost. Bodiless sound is both the trace of the divine other as well as the haunting of the beyond. Conversely, it is also where we learn what a home is, what it means to have a space bound up with who we are, a place of repose that if disrupted in some way works back upon the self. An insult to the home is an insult to the ego; an infestation of the home reflects a breech of self; a cluttered home, a cluttered mind, etc. Before we knew of an outside or saw the other face-to-face we felt and heard the sounds of the uncanny and ecstatic resonating all around us, the divinity and horror latent in sound.

Gaston Bachelard said, “the world would get along better if pots and covers could always stay together.” I am inclined to agree—every coverless pot is nothing more than a bowl, a space devoid of mystery or a timbre of its own, any sound it can make a reflection of what is put into it. A covered pot however resonates back on itself, a single tap revealing a whole aural world, resonating and re-resonating. A covered pot is filled with mystery and imagination, a womb-home, pregnant with infinite possibility. From the covered pot sounds a voice beyond-the-self, beyond the mere touch which aurally “opens” the pot—releasing a Pandora’s box of divinity and horror.

What is Listening, prt. II

When did I first listen? This question can have no definitive answer and is as unfruitful a question as “what and when was the first word spoken?” From the moment I had ears to hear within the womb my body heard and vibrated to the natural rhythm of my mother’s pulse. It was from the womb I first experienced aural space, reverberation, the echo, and “entered” into listening. The ethnomusicologist John Blacking notes that just as the child never had to learn the formal structure of language before he began speaking, so too the child responds to aural organization “before he has been taught to recognize” the sounds as such. From our very first memories we are creatures that listen.

Listening is a finding-an-order to sounds, a making sense of the natural depth of the world around us. Because we have listened from such a young age and have learned what to listen for, we often take for granted how complex this finding-an-order is. Dr. Oliver Sacks in his recent book Musicophilia expounds upon the phenomenon of musical hallucinations, when music sounds to an individual seemingly out of nowhere. These hallucinations are usually brought on by a hearing loss and can last for many years—the patient constantly hearing the playing of music, often spontaneous and “composed,” for his or her entire conscious existence. Such hallucinations can also temporarily be induced by stroke, ischemic attacks, or cerebral aneurysms.

Although Dr. Sacks says little in the way of interpreting this phenomenon or what it “means” to how we as human beings listen, one patient does comment that when mowing the lawn, “a motif starts up in my head which I recognize as only happening when the mower is on.” Many of the patients experience similar occurrences, like a high ringing before slowly changing into a recurring theme. The hallucinatory music then is a finding-an-order but to a cognitively dissonant extreme. Whereas most of us notice musicality in sounds, the rhythm and loud voice of the lawn mower for instance, the patient literally transcribes or arranges these sounds into music. Just as visual hallucinations are a way of “making sense” of disconcerting visual phenomena, so too musical hallucinations are an ordering of sound that reveal how listening is an ordering of sound.

Sounds not only arouse the cerebellum, basal ganglia, or any other one portion of the brain, but like language, vast portions of it. These sounds in turn lead to rhythmic motor function, whether that be playing or singing along with the music, tapping, or even sitting still—for listening attunes us to what we are listening to, we vibrate to it, reverberate it back. These aural rhythms felt throughout our body are in turn taken up by the mind. We take up musical structures both on the psychological level of anticipation/fulfillment or appropriation/denial, as well as on the neurological level. Our motor rhythms influence the rhythm that our neurons fire in, taking the rhythms up as a temporal template. Listening as finding-an-order literally influences how our brains “move” in time. As in Plato’s Republic the “rhythm and harmony [of music] permeate the inner part of the soul,” ordering our thoughts and the sounds of the world around us.