If music is organized sound, is intentionality a prerequisite?
Meanwhile, in a forthcoming UNIVERSAL EAR adventure, Harley Byrne discusses intentionality vis-a-vis his hostess’s proto-human lullaby, then argues that birdsong cannot really be considered birdsong at all.
You’re claiming, a cynical smile played on her chapped lips, that before last night’s lullaby, no-one had ever conceived of hearing the same piece of music a second time?
To the best of my knowledge, I went on, backed up by the calculations of my brother, Santiago, last night represented a unique turning point in human evolution: your community’s advances in stone-based technology, indicating a fledgling ability to apply cause-and-effect logic to phenomena beyond your immediate perception, coupled with your unique ear for a tune. I don’t believe you – nor anyone else - has ever sung, nor even been asked to sing, the same tune twice. Do you deny this?
Sharo shrugged. I went on:
Yet I sensed I was not alone in hoping to hear it again; your people this morning were already talking about a rudimentary playlist; and I have every indication you will sing the same song again tonight. My assignment will not be complete until I have recorded it.
I couldn’t tell if Sharo was still listening: perhaps I had tired her rudimentary intellectual faculties. Laying back in submission to the sun’s ancient rays, I closed my eyes, scanning the soundscape out of habit: I could hear flamingos splashing each other in the lake, the crack of reptilian jaws upon the bony neck of one such bird, followed by the inevitable drag, roll and munch. It seemed the local crocodile population were more interested in a convenient snack than the risky business of hunting the Earth’s new janitors. All of this, though, was white noise against the coarse rhythm of Sharo’s grooming process, the regular ploughing of the comb broken by the occasional ripping of another matted clump.
I opened my eyes at Sharo’s touch. She pointed at a bird-like creature sitting behind us in a sort of tree, engaged in a call-and-response dialogue with an unseen cousin. The audio patterns were undoubtedly similar. I put my hand on Sharo’s shoulder.
They’re playing back, I acknowledged, and perhaps even enjoying it. But are they enjoying it as music, or just conversation?
Come on, Pink Man, she laughed, rapping the back of my hand with the sharp edge of the comb. You have been licked by the sun.