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Copyright © 1998 - 2002 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies) Detail of photo (copyright Magín Berenguer)


I have always tried to render inner feelings through the mobility of the muscles . . . --Auguste Rodin

More often than not, [people] expect a painting to speak to them in terms other than visual, preferably in words, whereas when a painting or a sculpture needs to be supplemented and explained by words it means either that it has not fulfilled its function or that the public is deprived of vision. --Naum Gabo

Aesthetic signal. 1. An aromatic, auditory, tactile, taste, vestibular, or visual sign designed by human beings to affect the sense of beauty. 2. Arrangements, combinations, contrasts, rhythms, or sequences of signs, designed as an emotional language with which to bespeak elegance, grace, intensity, refinement, and truth.

Usage: "I shall thus define the general function of art as a search for the constant, lasting, essential, and enduring features of objects, surfaces, faces, situations, and so on, which allows us not only to acquire knowledge about the particular object, or face, or condition represented on the canvas but to generalize, based on that, about many other objects and thus acquire knowledge about a wide category of objects or faces" (Zeki 1998:71).

Anthropology I. "All art then is utilitarian: the scepter, symbol of royal power, the bishop's crook, the love song, the patriotic anthem, the statue in which the power of the gods is cast in material form, the fresco that reminds churchgoers of the horrors of Hell, all undeniably meet a practical necessity" (Leroi-Gourhan 1964:364).

AnthropologyII. In Upper Paleolithic sculpture and cave art: "Women, bisons, aurochs, horses, are all executed according to the same convention whereby identifying attributes are attached to a central nucleus of the body. The result is that the head and limbs are often merely hinted at and, at best, are out of scale with the mass of the body" (Leroi-Gourhan 1993 [1964]:376).

Aromatic art. "On the deck [of Cleopatra's barge] would have stood a huge incense burner piled high with kyphi--the most expensive scented offering known to the Egyptians compounded from the roots of Acorus and Andropogon together with oils of cassia, cinnamon, peppermint, pistacia and Convolvulus, juniper, acacia, henna and cyprus; the whole mixture macerated in wine and added to honey, resins and myrrh. According to Plutarch it was made of 'those things which delight most in the night' adding that it also lulled one to sleep and brightened the dreams" (Stoddart 1990:142).

Cuisine. A dessert course without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye. --Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (quoted in McGee 1990:271)

Form constants. 1. "What [Heinrich] Klüver [i.e., his hallucenogenic 'form constants'] showed was that there are a limited number of perceptual frameworks that appear to be built into the nervous system and that are probably part of our genetic endowment" (Cytowic 1993:125). 2. "Klüver . . . identified four types of constant hallucinogenic images: (1) gratings and honeycombs, (2) cobwebs, (3) tunnels and cones, and (4) spirals" (Cytowic 1993:125). 3. "In addition to form, there are also color and movement constants, such as pulsation, flicker, drift, rotation, and perspectives of advance-recede relative to the viewer" (Cytowic 1993:125). 4. "Form constants can be found in many natural phenomena, from subjective experiences to works of art, including craft work and cave paintings of primitive cultures" (Cytowic 1993:125).

Golden section. Human beings are most aesthetically pleased when a straight line is divided not in half (i.e., not in two equal segments), but rather, when the right-hand segment measures 62% of the left-hand segment (Young 1978).

Likes. 1. As human beings, we may be genetically predisposed to like bright colors, glitter, and sunshine; soft, tinkling, and rhythmic sounds; sweet, fruity, and nutty tastes; and touching what is soft, smooth, and dry (Thorndike 1940). 2. We like star-shaped better than blocky, rectangular-shaped polygons (Young 1978). 3. Visually, we prefer "unified variety" in a picture, rather than seeing too much or too little variety (Young 1978).

Mobiles. "Until Calder invented his mobiles, the generation of motion depended upon machines, and machines did not seem beautiful or desirable works of art to everyone, not even to the cynical Duchamp" (Zeki 1998:71).

Neanderthal art. Among the few artistic artifacts fabricated by Homo sapiens neanderthalensis are a. an engraved fossil from Tata, Hungary, with lines scratched in the shape of a cross; and b. a carved and polished mammoth's molar tooth, also from Tata (Scarre 1993:48).

Plato. The Greek philosopher Plato reasoned that, as a medium of communication, art was removed from reality and therefore could not communicate knowledge or truth (Flew 1979:6).

Prehistory I. 1. The oldest human rock engravings, consisting of designs etched into stones in southern Australia, date back ca. 45,000 years ago (Scarre 1993). Known as Panaramiteepetroglyphs, the engravings depict ". . . mazes, circles, dots, and arcs" (Scarre 1993:47; see above, Form constants). 2. One of the oldest human decorations, consisting of zigzag "V" markings engraved in a bone from a cave at Bacho Kiro in central Bulgaria, appear to be deliberately incised rather than merely accidental (Scarre 1993:47).

Prehistory II. "Picturing by drawing or painting on flat-surfaced sign vehicles (walls, ceilings, animal skins, sides of containers, clay tablets, etc. [see SIGN, Usage II]) increased in quantity and sophistication with the arrival of urbanism and the full-time artist and scribe (ca. 6,000 B.P. [before present]). The painted signs themselves not only improved but became increasingly prolific, standardized, and information-laden, and began to carry more of a narrative force than the pre-urban decorations. Egyptian funerary art (from 3,000 B.P.), for example, details complex social, political, and agricultural activities in graphic picturing sequences—scenes easily understood by the modern viewer. Another example is the Minoan fresco from Akrotiri (ca. 3,500 B.P.), 16 inches high and more than 20 feet long, which depicts an intricate naval battle sequenced horizontally in a flowing narrative order" (Givens 1982:162).

Neuro-notes I: "Artists, without their being aware of it, have accurately described the function of the brain through their definition of art. Just as artists select from varied visual information for their representation of reality, so does the brain discriminate from varied stimuli to produce insight" (Zeki 1998:71).

Neuro-notes II: "To be able to activate a cell in the visual brain, one must not only stimulate in the correct place (i.e., stimulate the receptive field) but also stimulate the receptive field with the correct visual stimulus, because cells in the visual brain are remarkably fussy about the kind of visual stimulus to which they will respond" (Zeki 1998:71).

See also MUSIC.

Copyright 2000 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)

Detail of photograph of the 1884-86 sculpture, The Burghers ofCalais, by Auguste Rodin (copyright 1994 by Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH)


Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast,

To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. --Congreve (The Mourning Bride, I, 1)

Auditory signals. A usually pleasing, sequential arrangement of vocal or instrumental sounds.

Usage: Music produces a highly evocative, emotional message through harmony, melody, rhythm, and timbre.

Amusia. "Cases of amusia, i.e., loss of ability to produce or comprehend music--an abnormality as regards music analogous to aphasia as regards the faculty of speech--conclusively demonstrate that the musical faculties do not depend on the speech faculty [i.e., one may suffer from amusia without aphasia, and vice versa, though some may suffer from both]" (Reiling 1999:218).

Anthropology. So diverse are the world's musical "languages" that some sociocultural anthropologists specialize entirely in ethnomusicology.

Head bangers. 1. In a study of early-childhood head bangers, mothers described their children as ". . .

prone to rhythmic activity in response to musical stimuli" (De Lissovoy 1962:56; see SELF-TOUCH, Neuro-notes). 2. ". . . all of the [33] subjects had a history of other rhythmic activities, such as head or body rolling, prior to the head banging" (De Lissovoy 1962:56). 3. Girls head banged 19-to-52, while boys head banged 26-to-121, times per minute (De Lissovoy 1962).

Lullaby. "A Chinese lullaby is just as soothing to a child as a German song or any other. When listening to lullabyes, breathing becomes shallow and regular like that of a sleeping person. The characteristics of this form of breathing are also in the structure of the lullaby" (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1970:439).

Prehistory. "During the last two decades many investigators--Kussmaul, Stumpf, Preyer, Oppenheim, Knoblouch, Charcot, etc.--have conclusively demonstrated that the musical faculty is older than that of speech; that music is a primary and simple phenomenon, while speech is secondary and complex" (Reiling 1999:218).

Symphony. "The highs and lows of emotional experiences are touched in an ever-changing pattern that cannot be experienced in everyday life" (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1970:440).

FIELD NOTES: To study the special role music plays in human courtship, CNS conducted field observations at a large outdoor rock concert-Endfest 2000-held on Saturday, August 5, 2000, on the Kitsap Peninsula, west of Seattle, Washington, USA.

The question: " Why is the sound of music so important in human courting rituals ?'

Ethnographic background. Thousands of Endfesters arrived, who were 17-to-30 years old, mostly unmarried, urban, white, heterosexual fans of alternative rock music. Showing up in groups of 2, 3, and 4--all-male, all-female, or mixed female-and-male--they were visibly excited and definitely ready to rock.

Adornment. Endfesters dressed to show off their essential male or female gender cues, and to display individuality, personality, and allegiance to the alternative lifestyle. Fans wore identity-proclaiming belts, boots, bracelets, caps and hats, cut-through jeans, dark glasses, earrings, necklaces, foot-revealing sandals, conspicuously displayed underwear, idiosyncratic watches, and screaming tatoos. Band members dressed mostly in black (see COLOR CUE, BLACK).

Hair. Endfesters went to great lengths to display head hair (see HAIR CUE). The most outstanding display was that of a young man's very well-groomed, magenta topknot, projecting stiffly above his close-cropped hair's jet-black sidewalls. Clearly visible from a distance of over 100 yards, his nonverbal message was aposematic, like the coloration of a stinging insect: "Danger, danger, danger!" (see HAT, Cap III).

Media. In poster photographs published in the August 5, 2000 Bremerton Sun newspaper, unsmiling, blank-faced band members of Third Eye Blind lean away to the side to show a defiant attitude. Unsmiling, blank-faced members of 3 Doors Down stare menacingly straight ahead (see EYE CONTACT, Usage). Unsmiling, blank-faced members of Papa Roach pose with their heads tilted sideward in a posture popularized by the method actor, James Dean (see SHOULDER-SHRUG, Media).

Motion I. Because both our auditory and vestibular senses involve sensors housed within the ears, music powerfully suggests movement. The phrase "rock and roll," e.g., is a vestibular metaphor for the sound of music. The loud rock music at Endfest joined listeners as psychic "fellow travelers," and thus enhanced the rapport of strangers in the crowd.

Motion II. Set to music, Endfester body movements took on a more palpable, emotional appeal. Submerged in the loud electronic beat, group isopraxism bourgeoned and enhanced as well.

Emotion I. Not only were the rock-music lyrics spoken in heightened emotional voice tones, but the guitar and organ sounds, which mimic the sound-range of the human voice itself, also "spoke" to the crowd's feelings and moods.

Emotion II. Singers used aggressive, angry voice tones to scream and shout--in order to target negative emotion centers of the brain's amygdala. Threatening sounds, venomous shrieks, and harmful, biting words put into the summer air, very amplified, from tensed throats, touched off feelings of group belonging and "togetherness" via the biological principle of aggression-out. Just as monkeys mob outsiders, by sharing dislike for and distrust of mainstream (i.e., non-alternative) values, Endfesters became a close-knit group in which courtship could take place.

Speech. Amplified (16 coaxial cables fed into the main stage), the words of the rock musicians fully engaged listeners' brains. Addressed to the crowd through eye contact, listeners felt emotionally and personally connected—not only to the singers but to each other as well.

Sound. In mating rituals throughout the world, auditory cues play a tactile role as they pave the way for physical touching itself (see AUDITORY CUE, Courtship).

Touch. In the crowds surrounding Stage A, men formed ad hoc combat circles and pushed each other to and fro, with their hands held in aggressively pronated (i.e., palm-down) positions, as Harvey Danger played its hit song, "Flagpole Sitta." Surrounded by women, the pushing and shoving was not unlike the ritual clash of elk antlers in the season of the rut.

Neuro-notes I. Research on amusia suggests ". . . that there is only one musical center in the cerebrum, and that it is situated in the anterior two-thirds of the first temporal convolution and in the anterior half of the second temporal convolution of the left lobe, i.e., in front of the [speech-comprehension] center of Wernicke" (Reiling 1999:218).

Neuro-notes II. "Larionoff has made numerous ingenious experiments on dogs, with a view of defining the localization of the auditory centers, and has come to the following conclusions: There are several sensory musical centers situated in the posterior halves of the hemispheres, and several motor centers situated in the anterior halves of the hemispheres of the cerebrum. Of the sensory, two tone centers are situated in the temporal lobes, and one optic center, for the reading of notes, situated alongside of the center for ordinary reading, in the gyrus angularis. The motor center of notewriting probably develops alongside of the center for ordinary writing, in the second frontal convolution. The singing center is situated a little behind the motor center of speech of Broca, in the third frontal convolution, and is otherwise known as the center of Krause. The motor center presiding over the functions of performing on various instruments develops on exercising, in the anterior part of the central convolution alongside of the motor center of note writing. The center for playing wind instruments is developed in the region governing the movements of the lips, a little above the center of Krause . . ." (Reiling 1999:218).

Neuro-notes III. PET studies of listening to familiar melodies show involvement of the right superior temporal cortex, the right inferior temporal cortex, and the supplementary motor area (Halpern and Zatorre 1999). Retrieval of a familiar melody activates the right frontal area and right superior temporal gyrus (Halpern and Zatorre 1999). No significant activity was observed in the left temporal lobe (Halpern and Zatorre 1999). "It is concluded that areas of right auditory association cortex, together with right and left frontal cortices, are implicated in imagery for familiar melodies" (Halpern and Zatorre 1999). "Retrieval from musical semantic memory is mediated by structures in the right frontal lobe" (Halpern and Zatorre 1999).

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