Music vs Language – These sliders are all of the components of our emotional states.

It’s the relationship between music and listener that’s a little different than the relationship between words and listener.

It’s an active participatory process. The system requires both to act in concert. Yes, I just said that smile emoticon

I’m going to use engineering analogy. Apologies ahead of time:

Imagine a series of mechanical sliders inside of us.

These mechanical sliders can be moved by many means. Words, music, art, movies, thoughts – they can even move on their own. They never really stop moving.

These sliders are all of the components of our emotional states.

There’s many emotional states. Sliders are tied into each other, so one slider can affect others. Two sliders can affect an entirely different set of sliders.

Now you have music. Music is a very direct manipulation of these sliders. It’s not entirely an objective system; there are certainly cultural elements involved… yet the cross-cultural nature of whole bodies of music (classical is a good example, as it’s everywhere), makes them activate these sliders in the same way across many nations around the world, even those with local cultural music that’s different and doesn’t quite move the same way.

Yet we’re not bound by our cultures either. We have our own settings we prefer. Our sliders are all unique and slip and stick differently.

Now compare to language.

Language involves semantic systems as well as activating the sliders.

Language is musical but it is also visual/tactile: metaphors activate fast comprehension of meaning. “emotionally distant” activates the parts of the brain that are also used in seeing things that are far away, and activates the emotional sliders in the same manner.

Broken heart activates pain centers of a heart attack.

It’s all hidden in plain sight.

The sliders are of course tied into all of course sensory inputs. I believe we all have synthethesia to differing degrees. Music can activate a smell sense, a taste, a warmth, a vision, a coldness, an anger.

Words can too but they’re a little more prefrontal cortex. There’s a lot of calculations going on to ascertain meaning.

Music though, can move the sliders themselves, almost effortlessly if one is attuned (see what I did there?) to that style of music.


Well, I think we’re far more than complex Turing machines. I tend to believe in embodied cognition as a better model, where our social, physical, environmental and mental are all “one thing” that’s us and it’s more complicated than a computer.

But it’s an easily available metaphor so I used it smile emoticon


I don’t like having to use engineering/computer metaphors for humans, because we’re not robots or computers. We’re not spiritual meatbags, at least as far as I see it.

But the metaphors are common. I’m still working on better metaphors that can better encompass the totality of the systems that humans engage in as a functioning (and dysfunctioning) unit, along with all of the products of our creation such as computers/math/language/music/art/philosophy/poetry/etc as well as the Universe around us, and all of the things that are unseen and unseeable.

But that’s probably a life-project. I’m far from close. I’m always feeling as if I’m just starting it new.


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