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Friday, February 16, 2018

My Mind

I like things like prosody, grammar, and music theory because I like to look at how things work as systems.  I guess literary too, but not as a series of buzz words* as it now is, but real theory, where the theory actually explains and predicts things. I've never understood language learners who didn't want to understand the grammar inside and out, or who actively dislike understanding syntactical relationships, or musicians who want to play but don't want to know what it is they are playing. What I like about the jazz harmonies is that the player knows what the chords are and their relation to each other: they aren't just reading notes off the score.  I'm not a good improviser at all; I like it because I like how it makes sense structurally.

A musical rule is, for example, that the fourth tone of the scale sounds bad against a major seventh chord. So play C,E,G,B in the your left hand, and see if F sounds good. It doesn't. Now you could F if you wanted to, if you trying to find something very dissonant, but you wouldn't use it if you were going after a different effect. A grammar rule is that you would say the big red barn and not the red big barn, or "Never have I seen such a thing" and not "*Never I have seen such a thing."

I should actually be good at math, but I am not.  I think it was because I didn't see myself as talented in that, so I tuned out at a very early age from it.

So I don't always think like other humanists do. I guess it is a good thing that I am accepted in my field and not seen as some crazy person. I can sometimes see right away why someone is wrong, and I get impatient and want to cut through the bullshit.


*By a buzz word, I mean a word that does all the theoretical work just by sitting there as a point of reference.  That's what I see in a lot of job candidates. They say, I will be using "Mayhew's theory of the subtextual valence," quote the theory, and then analyze the text in the same way they would have otherwise.  


Leslie said...

I was going to major in environmental science and I still wonder how I'd have liked it. I don't fit in with most humanists because of having math brain. I did not notice this in college and graduate school, I think a lot of the faculty and students in my program also had math brain. It became evident when I became a professor, I am inexplicably unlike everyone else and also most students. It is a problem.

Theory, right. People do not do it, they just drop references to textbook versions of "theories" they have heard of. Boring.

Jonathan said...

Yes. Those potted summaries of theory. I guess where the math brain comes for me is in translation, where you can look very carefully and see what is going on in the comparison of two version. There is much that is an exact science in close textual analysis.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but that is what seems to have gone out of fashion. Now we are supposed to be fuzzy. It is very irritating since close textual analysis is the foundation of philology and literary studies and so on -- we've thrown out the root, it seems to me.