Sunday, December 23, 2012

Culture as Learned Probability System

Music, the Arts and Ideas
Leonard B. Meyer, U. of Chicago, 1967

“It is impossible to stand outside of culture, for the models and categories we use on conceptualizing and ordering the world are necessarily limited to, if not determined by, those which are provided by our particular culture.” (viii)

“A culture, like a musical style, is a learned probability system.” (p17, footnote 21)

“Meaning is when stimulus does not fit expectation.”

“Meaning is the difference between expectation and actual.”

Meaning, being also a measure of the uncertainty between antecedent and consequent is also related to probability.

“Once a musical style has become part of the habit responses of composers, performers, and practical listeners it may be regarded as a complex system of probabilities. That musical styles are internalized probability systems is demonstrated by the rules of musical grammar and syntax found in textbooks on harmony, counterpoint, and theory in general.”
In the Tonal Harmony of Western Music, the tonic chord is
-most often followed by the dominant
-frequently by the subdominant
-sometimes by the subdominant
In Counterpoint, after a large melodic skip, the melody
-usually moves in the opposite direction, filling in the tones passed over.

occurs by:
Delay – of expectation/norm
Antecedent Ambiguity/Uncertainty – equally probably constituents may be envisaged
Unexpected/Improbable – within the specific context
-deviation requires meaning, or more specifically: active creation of new meaning, which occurs within the temporal/tonal expectations

Information is measured by the randomness of the choices possible in a given situation. If a situation is highly organized and the possible consequents in the pattern process have a high degree of probability, the information (or entropy) is low.

If, however, the situation is characterized by a high degree of shuffledness so that the consequents are more or less equi-probable, then information (or entropy) is said to be high.

“What we perceive as the present is the vivid fringe of memory tinged with anticipation.”
-A.N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature, in G.J. Whitrow, The Natural Philosophy of Time, p83, in Meyers, p89.

“The practically cognized present is no knife-edge, but a saddle-back, with a certain breadth of its own in which we sit perched, and from which we look in two directions in time.”
-William James, Principles of Psychology, 1950, p609

Predictions create the future:
“Prediction itself – that is, belief about the probable future – may make an incalculable difference in it.”
-Herbert J. Muller, “Misuses of the Past”, p12, Horizon 1 (March 1959), on Meyer, p90

The Determinism vs. Free Will Problem
Might it not be that the problem stems from a failure to distinguish between the relatively undetermined, non-statistical processes characteristic of the level of individual choice and those forces which, more determined and quasi-statistical, are operative on the higher levels of sociocultural history. It may be that the problem of determinism vs. free will stems from a confusion of hierarchic levels of analysis. (p97)

TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2012

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