Friday, January 04, 2008

Sing Me a Song (or Contrapuntal Conversation)

Birds sing and so do dogs and whales. So when I was a little kid I wondered why humans spoke with a 'conversational voice', a 'speaking tone', instead of singing communications to one another via song.

I may have been reprimanded for an interruption while adults were speaking. I may have been asked to 'tone it down'.

Silence may be golden, but at some point, the musician in the child realized that contrapuntal conversation would allow for the simultaneous flow of conversation, including interruptive comments, while never once forsaking clarity.

In fact, singing allows for two or more people to deliver a message at the same time, assuming they follow a few rules regarding key, rhythm and harmony. Given this scenario, no one would ever have to tone it down, ever, and resulting participants in a conversation could voice their thoughts and concerns, as well as receive and comprehend content delivered by others all at the same time!

Because if one is a singer, one doesn’t have to pause in order to give someone else the floor, but rather –as you have no doubt witnessed in opera and musical theater– several people can communicate completely different thoughts and yet remain intelligible, if they deliver their words via separate, individual and harmonized melodies.

Naturally this would require each and every person to work on their pitch, timing and tone as they grew from childhood to adulthood, but wouldn't we be a better species for it? Not to say musicality would bring peace, not when some of the most memorable music is born of strife.

Although there are instances when musical communications really could diminish the potential for conflict. Instead of telling noisy children or movie theater patrons to shut up or be quiet, you would simply ask the offending party to harmonize or vocalize pianissimo.

Overlapping musical lines would result in interesting situations: At Presidential or political debates, all the candidates or participants could talk at once and be fully understood by all. Moreover, the events themselves would last mere minutes, and might actually be enjoyable, even entertaining as well as informative.

Instead of race or gender being issues, the press and pundits might get in trouble for suggesting that one candidate or another is more or less deserving of office because the person in question either has or doesn't have rhythm.

A circumstance might even arrive where we all suspect one of the major party players uses Autotune or lip syncs his arguments when he or she is on stage.

Now, that would be a scandal!

Can you imagine war? Not only would we have Morse code, but spies recruited out of musical theater programs and ballet academies would also be trained in tap code, passing secrets across the dance floor from underground hoofers and Special Tango Forces to covert drummers until the message could at last be crooned or beat boxed to allied command.

Even more interesting, perhaps, how would transcripts appear in a newspaper?

I wonder if the musicality of a given orator or editor would influence my conclusions about a given argument, as much as the opinion itself would.

Regardless, I love the idea of perhaps being able to sit down and read two opposing op-ed pieces presented as a fugue, and then discussing the contents with friends, presenting our own ideas as a variations on the theme.

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