Correspondence between Communications and Physiology
Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools / Information / Macroinformation / Views /
@ K. 2000 05 08
The step I am taking now is to see macroinformation: like the early explorers of electricity with their simple devices — keys on kites, then static electricity generators and Leyden jars … Once we see it, perhaps we will be able to measure it. Once we measure it … Who knows?
Thus far I’ve been concentrating on emanations of macroinformation relating to effects generated and presumably planned to some extent by the sender of the signal. Once again, competence with my theory is not required: the hunters knew the tiger would fall into the concealed hole they’d dug before Newton. Also once again, unlike mere information the macroinformational effects planned are not necessarily the effects which emerge in a particular receiver. (What is unequivocal in the
(link to be reestablished after move) foregoing trio
of paintings is that the artist was exploiting space, including our notions of space, while tapping into deep dreads, phobias, longings, taboos …) (Note: files get moved around, references lose currently. Such entropies will be reversed once I can put the whole thing together in the best way.)
I seek collaboration before venturing far into observations about macroinformation implicit in signals not originated from a human mind. The husband in the
(link to be reestablished after move) joke
was responding to macroinformation generated by his wife’s body before she was tattooed: indeed before they were married. She was responding to macroinformation generated by his. What set of signals more perfectly represents our concept of synesthesia than those emanating from our bodies? Sight soon blends with sound: touch, taste and so forth may soon be added. Even our cartoon view of the woman of the joke bending over evokes complex topologies: different types of space juxtapose with different types of line (and with different dreads, longings, phobias, and taboos).
Synesthesia relates to correspondence and correspondence too will loom large in Macroinformation. Our bodies insofar as they contain carbon, oxygen, calcium … exist in Pleroma. As organisms we exist in Creatura. Our thoughts, ideas, words … exist in Sentiens. Our survival as gatherers and hunters was enhanced by our noticing correspondences between Pleroma and Creatura. As days grew longer, plant life quickened. … As days grew shorter, the herds moved. … We mythologize the correspondences we observe: gods are born at the winter solstice, gods are reborn at the vernal equinox … We build structures to emphasize such correspondences:
Place the stones so that a niche is formed such that light will penetrate it only at dawn of the equinox.
Our science is still not altogether separated from our magic:
Sacrifice the virgin just as the light beam bisects the center of the altar. …
After mashing you in our crucible, the bestowal of this sorcerer’s robe and this parchment, graduates you, translates you into a golden being on whom we may depend for our prosperity. …
The bomb will grant us power, make us immortal. …
We are so devoted to correspondences that we manufacture more than we observe. Epistemology and semantics help us to sort the validity of our notions. So too may a semiotically informed Macroinformation. Thought not keyed to survival belongs on the altar of Onan.
The correspondence Pythagoras discovered between a vibrating string’s length and the sound’s octaves and overtones strikes me as being as secure in its rightness as human aspiration to relate Creatura to Pleroma can achieve. His theorem is far from shabby, but it is after all tautology dependent: we don’t really know that there are any triangles in Pleroma. We don’t really know anything about Pleroma. Some thinkers have denied there’s any such “thing.” (However “obviously” preposterous, solipsism is ineradicable.) I do however see merit in the argument that evolution in time will sift out mismatches between thought and possibility: if we’re here, we can’t be too
far wrong. (That is: we cant have been too far wrong. The next moment is still unknown.)
Synesthesia, correspondence, our bodies … Information may exist only in Sentiens, but what’s perceived as information may originate “higher” in the nest of sets. Light exists in Pleroma: we “see” it in Sentiens independent of whether we ourselves kindled the light. Our bodies exhibit information that we (as persons) did not put there.
I intend this section as a segue between graphic or plastic artifacts and aural artifacts. The examples for this section will continue to be visual. I ask the reader to reexperience in his mind any of the world’s great sculptures of the human body. Picture Rodin’s The Kiss. Picture Aristide Maillol’s Summer or Spring or Night. How many kinds of information are added to a preexisting complexity by bilateral symmetry? (How much of that is macroinformation I will consider in a subsequent paper.)
Now: artifacts aside, anticipating music but relating to all the arts, look at your hand. No, I’m serious. I know you know what your hand looks like, but look at it now. Stop reading and look. If you’re back before five minutes have passed, stop again and look some more. Pronate your hand. Supinate it. Look at it palm toward you. (If you’re male, you probably already are; females tend to look at the side showing their nails.) Look at it fingers extended, knuckles toward your face. Look at both of your hands side by side. Turn one away. Reverse. How much information is there? How many man hours would be needed to record it? How much disk space would it consume? I picture painter Mark Toby seeing an infinitely mysterious calligraphy. I picture Gregory Bateson ( or Jared Diamond) saying that it took all hours prior to man hours to produce it. I picture Stanislaw Lem saying that the universe itself is a computer and that that’s how much disk space is needed.
2011 10 24 There’s a note in my manuscript at this point which says “saturated info as in a section of an irrational #.” Sounds worth developing to me. I’ll try to be back befoe too long to do so; but meantime, you see if you have thoughts on the subject: if you can see anything from my hint.
While I’m interrupting the original I’ll add: this module at K. / Mi.org used scans from an old book of Chinese art which shows all the marks of my homeless poverty. Here I’ll insert illustrations already online at other sites. Fine tuning may follow later.
I look at my botch of a keyboardist’s hands and nevertheless see musical harmony. I see how and why this and that instrument developed. I “see” the blues. I see “why” Billie Holiday’s voice did that triplet against that two in Easy Living and the “inevitability” of the structure of the F7 Bb7 / Eb6 (Ab7 G7) refrain in Gee Baby, ain’t I Good to You? More of that will follow in the next section. For now let us consider a painting from the Wu School by Lu Chih (1496-1576).
Lu Chih, River Scene in Spring (1535)
detail [Palace Museum, Taichung]
The painting (actually a long scroll) I had wanted to scan a detail of depicted seven geese organized as two and three and two (one of the twos closer to the three making “two-and-three and two”). A little further away another seven of something was organized as two and two (four) and one and two (three): that is, seven. Number and grouping are essential considerations in perception and perception is integral with communications. Searching through Chinese Painting [James Cahill, Skira, 1960], I realize that I’m remembering a scroll from the Metropolitan’s show of Chinese Treasures from that year, organized, I believe, with Cahill’s participation. The museum had a good ten or twenty feet of the scroll exposed on the wall. But Lu Chih’s trees will do. Indeed, they relate more digitally to the hand than do geese. (A Leakey or a Johnson might look at his hand and see our family tree.) But the nature or the identity of the “digit” is immaterial: what we shall discuss is the distribution and grouping of information in artifacts made by and for humans: that is to say, creatures exhibiting chirality, bilateral symmetry, elements of five-way symmetry … handedness.
Information is organized in River Scene in Spring, as it is in the bulk of human communications, in modules coextensive with the natural sub-groupings of the hand. Any primate should relate to it, “see” it easily. An octopus or an intelligent arachnid might not notice it at all. An intelligent starfish might say, “Ah. But why are the fives all broken up?” Three trees group before the dwelling with the seated figure. Two others straddle the building behind. I invite you to notice that the foreground group and the broken group behind make up a redistributed hand. I invite you further to consider that such redistributions relate formally to redistributions in music where for example a C chord, which is C, E and G when played from its “Root” position is still a C chord when played in either of its “inversions”: G, E, C or E, C, G. (Add the seventh and you have four positions. Leave out a note, spread them over the octaves, and the possibilities spawn.)
Another tree is isolated to the left with only a bit of foliage suggesting a neighbor. Does that tree begin another “hand”? Or does the wide space between relate that tree to those around the building complex in the role of a “thumb”?
Our education blinds us to so many things. One of the perennial difficulties I have in teaching backgammon to beginners concerns their insistence on summing the two dice as in craps where skill in backgammon requires seeing each die in isolation. You do not have a seven. There is no seven in backgammon. Six is the highest number. You have a four and a three. Had you a seven, you would not be blocked. As it is, you are blocked both on the three and on the four. Painters, poets, musicians organize data in twos, in threes, and fours … The human mind can assemble, calculate with, and redistribute a pair and a few and several … anything more is too many. We don’t have five fingers. Absolutely we don’t have ten. We have three fingers … and a thumb … and a pinkie. We have a pair of them: a bilaterally symmetrical pair.
In music, accepting scales as already constructed, the harmonic relations long worked-out, a chord is formed by playing (any note as) a root and adding (most typically) that root’s third and that root’s fifth: A, C (or C#), and E. If played in the ascending order presented here, the chord is “normal.” But normal chords are played sparingly. Through the bulk of the measure you will hear “inversions” of the chord: E, A, C; or C, E, A. Sevenths or a number of other extensions may also be used. The third or the fifth may be left out. There are as many things a musician can do with a chord as there are ways to cut, slice, dice … and cook a carrot. I hope you will consider Lu Chih’s salad of symmetry in that light.
I am not at the moment talking about macroinformation but about information. The bulk of the project will work at examining the relationships. Right now I am emphasizing perceptual structures. Does what I say above apply to other, non-arboreal elements in the composition? It certainly applies to components within each tree. Humans are not closely related to trees; but we are closely
related to these “trees”!
In the above module on Shakespeare’s “salad days,” I attributed macroinformation to breaks in the form. Here I invite you to recall that iambic pentameter is composed of five feet. Shakespeare routinely groups them in twos and threes, threes and twos. I hope you noticed my emphasis that the quote summed to twelve words: a dozen. “My salad days, /When I was green in judgement, cold in blood” groups as two accents followed by five. The five accents group as three and two. The words form groups of three and three and three and three, the middle two of threes bonding somewhat as a pair. Children can calculate with twos and threes before they learn arithmetic. Children can group and sum small numbers of groups. Adults are not comfortable with more whether they’ve learned arithmetic or not. The abacus enables swift complex calculations by grouping things with five as the largest sub-group. The abacus agrees with our evolution.
Other interests exploit our inabilities. The magician commands the stage. He typically has one attractive assistant: male and female: two make one (one plus one also makes three in the sexed universe). We follow the one or the two very carefully. The magician puts his assistant into a box and closes it. Abracadabra. There’s business with covers and/or music and perhaps a dance from a dozen attractive women. Now the magician is on the stage alone with the box. He removes the cover. He opens the box. Empty! The dozen choristers come on the stage and dance. Who notices that thirteen leave? The assistant exited the covered box’s rear the last time it was turned. She hides behind the box till she can join the dance unnoticed. If the magician has his assistant reappear from another box on the other side of the stage, who notices that she’s not herself but her twin sister? If the audience knew that the assistant is twins there would be no illusion.
Sometimes, but far from always, far from most often, our inabilities are exploited for our pleasure.
We will now glance more rapidly at related illustrations.
Sheng Mou, 1310-1361
Boating on the River in Autumn (1361)
detail [Palace Museum, Taichung]
The branches, the drooping vines with flowers, are organized in twos, and threes, and ones: the fives are composite. Symmetries are inverted, roll cut, tossed … I recently watched Lee Marvin mutter his way through a Lerner and Loewe song in the movie version of Paint Your Wagon. “Song”? “Singer?” Forget it. But by Duse, the dude can act! So, yes: it was musical: a mastery of twos and threes and how they can combine: as “musical” as this detail of Boating on the River in Autumn by Sheng Mou. Acting is as much akin to painting, music, dance … as it is to literature.
I hope you appreciate that my salad of media and genre is purposeful. My form has a “point”: our taxonomies exist in our habits; reexamination of the “reality” of our classifications should be constant. All communications depend on information. Artful communications involve macroinformation. Shakespeare’s “salad days” lines are all threes and twos and are one. Specialized jargons are fine so long as they aid examination and understanding. They are tolerable to some extent so long as they aid efficiency. Specialized jargons are intolerable when they falsely specialize, serve obscurity, elitism, job protection. So long as I speak gibberish, you can’t tell that I’m full of it. Macroinformation would rightly ecumenicize the sectarian arts. Speak, please, so that we can all understand you. If specialized terms are involved then we must all learn them: or be left out (on our own responsibility).
Ma Yuan (1129-1230)
Walking on a Mountain Path in Spring
[Palace Museum, Taichung]
Ma Yuan’s painting from the Southern School of the Sung Dynasty includes a pair of trees as a “character.” The foreground tree is more anthropomorphically realized than the figure of the man himself, vastly more dominant than the servant who bears his burden in a crouch through a perceptual arch made by the tree boles. The central figure, here nicely left of center actually, is canopied by the bilateral “arms” of the tree. The relationship implicit with nature is complex but we macroinformationally know that the canopied man is a scholar and that the scholar is hero.
Personally, I’m fed up with anthropomorphism in much art. The “Pathetic Fallacies” of a classic such as Wuthering Heights make me cringe. In another decade I might read that novel with the serious literalism of a Druid dancing the May Pole. In another I might see it as a satire of itself and laugh and laugh. Either way, it’s all macroinformation. And personally, far from being fed up with Chinese art, I adore the knobby “knees” and bony “thighs” and “shanks” of this worshipful “tree’s” “roots.”
Are we ready to concentrate our discussion on examples of macroinformation in music? I hope the musically knowledgeable will take pity on my ignorance of the jargon, see what I’m saying, see it’s importance, have their eyes opened: see it’s relation not just to other music but to all human communications; and help me out. First though, let us consider this Literati Ch’an painting from the mid-Thirteenth Century Sung.
Mu-ch’i, Mother Monkey and Child
In the aura of Mu-Ch’i’s Mother Monkey and Child I review: Human communications are structured by analogy with our physiology. Information in genes manifests as information in the phenotype. When the phenotype is social as well as sentient, the phenotype’s communications will “agree” with the phenotype’s constituent symmetries.
As primates we are more closely related to this “monkey” than to the “tree” she sits in as she cradles her baby. But we are related to the tree as well. Here however, Ch’an sensibility tones down the chirality, the handedness, the threes and twos (five), the bilateralism of both “tree” and primates, suggesting a Monism more ancient and far simpler than sexuality with its sophisticated symmetries. This mother looks closer akin to a budded plant than to a primate who experienced estrus and parturition. The bilateralism of her left forearm (to our left) and her left leg (to our right) blends in a single exquisite line. Saith the Ch’an, Life is one.
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