8 Short Texts

THE HUMAN EAR

1.

Human ears perform the diverse functions of detection, conversion, amplification, and transmission of sound waves in the air, and other media.

A normal human ear discriminates between some four-hundred thousand different sounds, which vary in pitch from high squealing sounds, to low throbbing sounds, and range in loudness from a slight whisper, to a crashing thunder-clap heard at close range.

The human ear can make the fine distinction between the speech of identical twins, or music played by two different violins. It can reject the overall noise of a loud party, while picking out a single familiar voice in a crowd.

Even during sleep, the ear functions with incredible efficiency because the brain is capable of interpreting and selecting signals which are transmitted by the ear.

Our ears are sensitive to the tiniest motions of the air. The slightest maneuvering of the head will cause the surrounding air to move the eardrum. And it is only because the vibrations are too slow to be detected that we don’t hear a sound. Fast vibrations that are so slight that the air is moved by only a ten-thousand-millionth part of an inch will transmit an audible sound to the brain.

Working together, the structure of the outer, middle, and inner ear perform acts of incredible range and virtuosity. A sound so weak that it causes the eardrum to barely vibrate can be heard. And yet a sound ten-million million times stronger will not damage the hearing mechanism.

The external ears allow us to detect the direction from which sound is approaching our head.

The primary function of the middle ear is to transmit sound vibrations from the outer to the inner ear, and to amplify the sounds.

The outer and middle ears are capable of amplifying sounds up to
two-hundred times their normal strength. This is so that the normally weak sounds of the air are able to move the heavy fluid of the inner ear.

In contrast, two separate muscles located in the middle ear are designed to limit the strongest movements of the air caused by loud noises.

The inner ear contains a bony labyrinth which is formed in the shape of a spiral coil or snail shell, known as the cochlea. The cochlea is responsible for separating each sound into its constituent frequencies and amplitudes, and converting these vibrations to electrochemical brain signals. These signals are then transmitted to various auditory regions of the brain, where they are stored and processed as auditory perceptions.

A traveling wave which propagates along the basilar membrane within the cochlea stimulates specific hair cells which are associated with individual nerve fibers. Each nerve fiber projects through the acoustic nerve to the brain. The position of the wave along the length of the cochlea determines the frequency of the sound that is sent to the brain, while the strength of the stimulus determines the amplitude.

At the acoustic nerve and in the brain, the frequency and quality of a sound is determined by the number and position of the various nerve fibers within the different regions of the nerve and brain. While the amplitude is represented by the number of neural impulses fired per second.

2.

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin argued that the external ears of humans have no function, that ‘they are small and don’t swivel, and furthermore, the entire hearing mechanism is able to process sound even when the external ears are missing.’ Not knowing or guessing its function, Darwin considered the external ear to be a vestige of an earlier period in evolution.

What about the earlobe? Is it a vestigial artifact left over from a prehistoric time when it served a more useful purpose?  It is true that the earlobe has been used for most of recorded history as a contemporary art gallery for the purposes of decoration and adornment, as well as sexual signaling.

And why is the ear so sensitive to sexual stimulation, as opposed to the nose or eyebrow, for example?

In 1789, responding to the complaints of a deaf friend, Benjamin Franklin performed an ‘exact experiment’ in which he cupped his ears with the palm of his hands, placing his thumb and fingers behind the ear, pressing it forward and widening it. Franklin found that he ‘could hear the tick of a watch at forty-five feet distance by this means, which was barely audible at twenty feet without it.’ This is an increase in the amplification of the sound by about fifty per cent. The experiment was performed at midnight when the house was still.

It is well known that the external ear represents a microcosm of the ancient science of acupuncture. The ear has touch-points along its surface which correspond to every major part of the human anatomy.

Persons who have lost the use of their middle ear due to injury or disease are able to hear only when sounds are shouted directly into their ears with enough force that the sound is able to move the fluid of the inner ear.

There is medical evidence suggesting that the muscles in the middle ear can be activated without the stimulation of sound. This spontaneous muscle activity can result in the perception by the brain of a repetitive and bothersome noise.

It is also curious that stimulating certain skin areas on the face and ear can produce a contraction in one of the muscles, which reduces the amount of sound that is transmitted to the inner ear.

The human ear can easily discriminate between musical tones and noise. This is because of the ability of the cochlea to analyze separate vibrations within a single sound.

Most sounds contain many different vibrations, each of which has a separate frequency and amplitude. The number of vibrations, including their individual frequencies and amplitudes, causes a sound to be of a particular quality, such as a bird whistle or machine sound. However, the way in which the different vibrations interact with one another determines whether the sound is a tone, a noise, or some combination of both.

The difference between musical tones and noise is not subjective. A musical tone is a sound containing two or more vibrations whose frequencies form multiples or submultiples of one another. A noise is a sound comprised of vibrations whose frequencies are random or arbitrary in relation to one another. Many sounds contain a combination of tones and noise.

Unlike the painfully slow response time of human-made electronic systems which incorporate frequency analyzing techniques, the response time of the ear is so fast that it can achieve full sensitivity within a few cycles of activity.

A human cochlea has been discovered buried beneath the center of a spiraled Druid Henge site in Great Britain.

3.

(Stand before the audience and demonstrate how to: ‘Cup the ears with the palm of the hands, by placing the thumb and fingers behind the ear, pressing it forward and widening it so that a permanent seal is formed by the hand around the ear’. Explain that ‘this exercise can increase the amplification of the sound entering the ears by about fifty per cent.’ And that ‘it can be extremely useful when inconveniently situated at a distance from a speaker or other sound source.’ Ask the audience to try it.)

 

A SEQUENCE OF 30 QUESTIONS

 ADDRESSED TO DONALD BURGY

 IN A PUBLIC FORUM

Donald Burgy is an artist who has routinely explored some of the most profound areas of contemporary knowledge. These explorations have typically begun with a simple question, often followed by years of inquiry, leading to an examination of related subjects such as astronomy, physics, biology, geology, and anthropology, to name a few. This text was originally prepared as a set of questions to be presented to Donald Burgy in a series of two radio broadcasts intended to draw on the artist’s wide range of acquired research and knowledge.

Part 1.

Where are we located in space?

What is the origin of art? When and where did art first emerge in human
culture? and in what forms?

Who were the first people on Earth to develop and use an alphabet?

What is the nature of space?

What exactly is gravity?

Do you make a distinction between the mind and the brain, and if so,
how would you map the difference?

Do you believe that extraterrestrial beings are visiting our planet?

What do you think led to the discovery of the relationship between sex and                   childbirth? When do you think this discovery occurred in the evolution                               of the human species?

What large-scale astronomical events determine the various geophysical
cycles which occur on the Earth, such as ice ages, polar reversals, and                            the 26-million year mass extinction cycle?

What role have the glacial and interglacial periods of the Earth’s
geological history played in the development of the human species?

When and where did written language originate?

Why are there different languages?

What are the fundamental ways in which objects or events move through
space?

Why does light travel at a constant speed?

What events occur at superluminal speeds?

Part 2.

How are galaxies formed?

What are the essential requirements for human adaptation?

How does human behavior relate to the genetic code?

What is the origin of sex?

Why do electrons ‘spin’ at certain speeds and not others?

Why are electrons the same size?

How do photons originate?

What is the relationship between the largest astronomical cycles in
the universe, and the smallest oscillations which occur at the subatomic                           scale?

How did life begin on Earth?

What causes a new species to arise?

What are memes?

Do you have any evidence to suggest that humans experience life after
death?

What is the underlying force which governs all changes?

Why do you think children like to hear fairy tales over and over again?

How fast are we traveling through space?

 

DOUBLE  VISION

In August of 1992, only five days apart from one another,
two great American artists, John Cage and Larry Bird,
involuntarily ended the artistic careers for which they
were notably celebrated.

Larry Bird, who may be the most complete basketball player
to ever enjoy the game, and who some have referred to as
‘the perfect player’, in what is essentially a collaborative team sport,
performed for the Boston Celtics until his injuries forced him to retire
at the age of 35.

John Cage, who was a self-taught composer, artist, author,
reformer, and philosopher, the epitome of the American iconoclast,
commanding the undisputed title
of most celebrated American composer since Charles Ives,
and the most influential musician since Beethoven,
succumbed at the age of 79 to a life-ending stroke.

Both artists held many things in common,
including a complete dedication and commitment to their art,
as well as an absolute respect for the uncompromising principles
on which the best of their art and artistry is founded.

Both lived in each others time.
Both influenced a largely populated segment of the culture.
Both reached the pinnacle of their careers together,
at the same moment in history.

For both of these artists,
each of whom dominated an age, and
each of whom shared the gift of inspiring others on a global scale,
it is likely, that neither (John  Cage nor Larry Bird)
knew of the existence of the other.

Both John Cage and Larry Bird
were masters of the quick response.
Both could spontaneously react
to a difficult situation.

When the twentieth-century composer Arnold Schoenberg
told John Cage that he should consider giving-up composing
as a career, due to his inability to think harmonically,
John Cage delivered a composition for violin and piano
in which the music was entirely based on a rhythmic scheme,
the seeds of which would later result in the innovation
of the prepared piano.

On the basketball court, when Larry Bird was double-teamed
and no one was open, he would throw the ball against the backboard,
go and get it and score. Once, when he was tied-up on the baseline,
he found a way to make a basket from behind the backboard.

One difference between them was notable.

Larry Bird shunned publicity of any kind.
He ignored every opportunity
for the media distribution of his image,
for personal or material gain.

While John Cage, in contrast,
and as a matter of principle,
was delighted to accept any invitation
which would result in the cultural
insemination of his ideas.

Another striking difference
associated with the lives of John Cage and Larry Bird
was the value placed on their artistry
by the public.

John Cage, born into privilege by normal standards,
seldom received a significant amount of money,
or a supporting grant, for his artwork. Although,
he managed to make a living throughout his career
as a piano accompanist and lecturer.

Larry Bird, on the other hand, rising from an
underprivileged background, earned several
million dollars in each of the thirteen years
of his playing career.

Finally, in what is a remarkable coincidence,
consider that both of these great artists
were amateur mycologists.

Whenever there was time to be taken,
They would strike out for the woods,
stalking the mushroom, and breathing the air.

Perhaps, one day in the past, there was a brush-by,
somewhere in the wooded surrounds
of the American midwest, or the dense forests of the northeast,
where the paths of John Cage and Larry Bird
crossed unknowingly against the background
of crisp air and wild mushrooms.

 

MUSICAL  COMMENT

The following American composers, listed in alphabetical order,
have never won a Pulitzer Prize for music:

Charles Amerikanian,
Robert Ashley,
David Behrman,
Earle Brown,
Henry Brant,
John Cage,
Henry Cowell,
Charles Dodge,
Morton Feldman,
Phillip Glass,
Otto Luening,
Conlon Nancarrow,
Pauline Oliveros,
Harry Partch,
Steve Reich,
Wallingford Reigger,
Carl Ruggles,
Frederick Rzewski,  (pronounced ‘reh-chef-ski’)
Morton Subotnick,
Virgil Thompson,
Vladimir Ussachevsky,
Edgar Varese,
Christian Wolff,
La Monte Young.

The prize was awarded to Charles Ives in 1947 for his Symphony No. 3,
subtitled ‘A Camp Meeting’.

 

EVOLUTION  REPRESENTATION

 Naming

I once heard biologist E. O. Wilson
state that naming things is important.
He went on to say,
that despite the obvious danger of categorization,
in order to fully understand something,
you must first name that thing.

Only then are you able to discover
how the different parts relate to the whole.
And finally, how the overall similarities and differences of a thing
relate to other things in its class.

(wait 3 or 4 seconds)

People should have their own names.

Men have their fathers’ names.
And their grandfather’s.
And his Father before him.

Women usually have men’s names,
names which have been borrowed
from their Fathers or Husbands.

In order to be truly independent,
as an individual, in the family,
and within the culture,

I suggest that one should be given a name which
describes both the origin and history
of our most permanent relationships,
a name which contains a personal record of the
genealogical evolution of each of the members
of the species, beginning at the present.

(slower)   

I propose
that each child be given three names.

A female child would take the last name of her mother.
Her father’s last name would become her middle name.
And the first name would be chosen for her by her parents.

 

A male child would follow the same pattern,
except that his surname would be the same

as his father’s last name.
And his middle name would be the same
as his mother’s last name.
As in the case of the female, the male’s first name
would be chosen at birth.

For example, in a family of four,
where the parents are John Johnson and Jane Smith,
The daughter’s name may be Jill Johnson Smith,
and the son named Jack Smith Johnson.

When two persons are joined in marriage,
Each person would retain their name, exactly as it was given.
No names would be changed.

If Jack Smith Johnson marries June Day Flowers
their daughter’s name might be Julie Johnson Flowers,
while a son might be named Jeremy Flowers Johnson.

A person would retain the same name
over the course of their entire lifetime.

They would always and only have the same three names.

The first name would mark a set of unique traits,
representing a particular individual.

While the last two names would encode
the origin and history of the biological and genetic
collaboration of cultural and family unity
within the species.

 

SOTTO  VOCE

 (soft, slow)

THE GREAT LUCIANO PAVAROTTI,

LUCIANO PAVAROTTI,
WHO IS ARGUABLY
THE FINEST OPERATIC TENOR
OF OUR TIME,

PERHAPS OF ALL TIME,

THIS GREAT MUSICIAN,

WHO HAS PERFORMED
WITH THE WORLDS FINEST ORCHESTRAS,

AND HAS SUNG
IN ALL OF THE IMPORTANT OPERA HOUSES
IN THE WORLD,

(half-whisper)

CANNOT
READ
MUSIC.

 

A. I. MODEL No. 6

 Intelligent Machine

Input a specific target goal

Review assumptions based on the target goal
Re-declare assumptions, if any

Set programmable values to zero

Load the Questions File from the Global Data Base via satellite
Load the Resolutions File

First Function
(Express the target goal as a representational map)

Divide the target goal into a series of specific tasks
Assign groups of smaller instructions within each task

Get the first question related to the target goal from the Questions File
Display the question
Map the question to all entries in the Resolution File

If there is a resolution to the question, then
Store it in the Resolution File
Display the resolution

Jump to the Second Function

If there is no resolution to the question, then
Scan the ‘Howl’ language interpreter for syntactical usage
Scan the ‘Pictionary’ data base for relevant images
Scan the ‘Mean Streets’ experience data base for a meaningful social
context

Scan the ‘Nature’ knowledge data base for a definition and working model
of all known systems
Scan ‘Misty’ operational tools for second and third order
representations such as analogy, metaphor, etc.
Scan the ‘Deja Vu’ data base for stored personal experience
Scan the ‘Lascaux’ data base for related deep historical experience
Scan the ‘Nostradamus’ global pattern recognizer for prediction maps

If 3 or more scans were successful, then
Store the question at the top of the Questions File
If over 75% of the scans in the test succeed, then
Store the resolution in the Resolution File, and

Jump to the Second Function

Otherwise
Get the next question, and
Repeat the entire process until all questions in the Questions File
related to the Target Goal have been processed

If there are no new entries in the Resolution File, and
If all questions in the Question File have been processed, then

Quit the program

Second Function
(Express the target goal as a 3-dimensional interactive system)

If there is a new entry or entries in the Resolution File, then
Get the latest entry
Convert the mapped form of the entry to numerical parameters
which are both interactive and programmable

Enable the target system

Adjust the mapped formulas of the target system
to conform to all re-configurable parameters of space and time
Convert the map to an integrally multiple system,
operable within a dynamic 3-dimensional environment

Enable the self-modifying, self-correcting tuning system

Set the initial parameters of the system to resonances
which are adaptable to local conditions within the boundaries of the                                    environment

Repeat this process for all new entries in the Resolution File

 

STRANGERS

 (look directly at a single person when delivering each line; bracketed lines are to be spoken to the whole group)

[This is the beginning.]

We share long-term memories of the past.

You and I are aquatinted.

Perhaps you were in one of my classes.

Sometimes you think about something first, then you feel it.

Either of us might agree. Or both of us.

There are similarities between us.

Sometimes you feel something first, then you think about it.

We don’t look alike.

Sometimes you are uncomfortable.

You know something about me.

I know something about you.

Sometimes you feel a thing first, then you act.

Your strengths are sometimes your weaknesses.

[This is the middle.]

Our brains, like faces, are both similar and different.

We might look alike to someone else.

You might not agree. Or you might.

Your brain monitors your experience.

When I look at you, I recognize part of myself.

Perhaps you were in one of my classes.

We are moving through space.

Your brain monitors my experience.

We are very different.

Perhaps you think of something first, then you act.

You are comparing me to someone.

Sometimes you act before you think.

Our hearts are beating at the same time.

We share the present.

You are watching my motions.

Perhaps I am frightened of you.

We are very similar.

We share long-term predictions of the future.

[This is the end.]

 

 

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