Listening through words or: The short (and nearly hastened) but invigorated Journey of Leon, who made it through the Cable by 7oi8
Soundartist 7oi8 from Düsseldorf made a musical piece in regard of the question wether language can affect or predetermine the way we listen to music:
„Meaning generated by words. What would the music be without words?“
In this case it is the title of the track that can be a guidance to the perception. Even though I’m sceptic wether language may have such a strong influence on our listening, I generally find it interesting to think about this. Since I was confronted with John Cage statement that people are not able to separate the aural perception from other senses like the visual it seems reasonable to me to state that this conception can be also transferred from our way of perceiving music onto our way of reproducing music. If I try to apply Ludwig Wittgenstein’s sentence: „The boundary of my language represents the boundary of my world.“ onto music it is obvious that it appears nearly impossible to describe or communicate about music without using words. Nevertheless this is a thought of dealing with music in an interactive social context. I don’t think that in general our mechanisms of thinking are necessarily determined and therefore limited by language. Leaving the theories of the language of thought or Wittgenstein’s private language aside, the question is, how can I experience something as music without using language? Even the thought: „I want to listen to some music.“ is incorporating words and a linguistic structure. Regarding Cage’s statement this question can be answered quite simply by stating somebody just has to listen to sounds to create music in his perception even without an actual formulated thought in the mind. With this it is more a matter of focussing attention than creating a rational perception. But at last it doesen’t seem that easy to me. Often the mind reacts in more than one direction when the senses are sending information. For the example of music I would say that it may be true that while listening to it the mind is producing linguistic or at least likewise structures for organising the impressions. But at the same time it can be building emotional, visual, haptic etc. structures linked with the impression of the sounds we generally call music. Fixing this in an abstract way I would say that language can be an integral part of dealing with music but yet definetely not the only one.