Monday, April 27, 2009

Communication problems

The pronunciation rwè for roi ('king') is attested in the late eighteenth century by the following anecdote, cited by Nyrop, Grammaire historique de la langue française, I, 3, p. 178. A woman was asked by the revolutionary tribunal if she had not said in front of witnesses that it was essential to have a king (roi). She replied that she had not been talking about a king (roi), but about a spinning-wheel (rouet).
from Saussure, Course in General Linguistics
[Pianist Krystian Zimerman] has had problems in the United States in recent years. He travels with his own Steinway piano, which he has altered himself. But shortly after 9/11, the instrument was confiscated at JFK Airport when he landed in New York to give a recital at Carnegie Hall. Thinking the glue smelled funny, the TSA decided to take no chances and destroyed the instrument. Since then he has shipped his pianos in parts, which he reassembles by hand after he lands.
from this report on Zimerman's recent Los Angeles recital. The "big story" here, of course, was supposed to be Zimerman's unexpected onstage tirade against the American government. I, however, am far more interested in the implications of the above anecdote (they destroyed a piano? They can do that? Did they use a shredder, or set it on fire?) than in Zimerman's earth-shaking observation that certain aspects of American foreign policy have been somewhat less than ideal.

Also floating around the Internet, via Sounds and Fury: the astonishing revelation that the US Department of Homeland Security is into the music cognition business. According to DHS researchers, our brain waves naturally produce music of their own accord, which can be transcribed by scientists, recorded for future use, and played back in order to "boost productivity and energy levels, or trigger a body’s natural responses to stress". The audio sample on the website is worth a listen as one of the most hideous pieces of art I have ever come across.

3 comments:

Christine said...

I am listening to the audio sample, which they describe as having "more of a Mozart sound". More of a Mozart sound than what? is my question. A tractor?

Alice said...

That music is amazingly annoying...I could feel my blood pressure rising as I listened to it...

Eleith Andjaparidze said...

I wonder what process they use to get brainwaves to sound like that... I expected this brain-generated music to sound at least a little more like the recorded music that is produced by stars:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7687286.stm

Listen to the globular cluster song. It's pretty catchy.