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Reversal of music
Angelic versus Demonic music?
Doublespeak, reverse speech and Freudian slips?
Questionable denial and condemnation by authorities
Sonification of the European problematique and resolutique?
Implications of directionality of reading for directionality of governance?
Symbolic public performance of the European Anthem in reverse?
Mitridate, Re di Ponto -- a response by Mozart to the European crisis of governance
European governance is currently faced with multiple crises. Its capacity to respond effectively is increasingly called into question, if only by increasing levels of popular discontent and active unrest. The crisis of governance in Europe is however but a reflection of the crisis of governance around the world -- and at the global level.
The central symbol of European governance, and of the values which it claims to uphold, is the Anthem of Europe. The Ode to Joy is the anthem of both the European Union and of the Council of Europe. The latter has recognized that, as a semi-modern composition with a mythological flair, it does represent Europe as a whole, rather than any particular organization. Based on the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony (1823), it is one of the best known works of classical music and is played on official occasions by both organizations.
The anthem was to have been included in the European Constitution along with the other European symbols; however, the treaty failed ratification and was replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon, which does not include any symbols. A declaration was attached to the treaty, in which sixteen member states formally recognized the proposed symbols. The European Parliament subsequently decided to play the anthem at the opening of Parliament after elections and at formal sittings.
The question raised here is whether current use of the anthem in a world in crisis is increasingly an indication of the manner in which the nature of that crisis is ignored. As such it reinforces an outdated pattern of thinking at a time when new thinking is required in order to transcend the crises of governance.
As a symbol, it is appropriate to note that the Ode to Joy was composed in the final years of his life when Beethoven was completely deaf. Performance of the anthem at this time might be provocatively compared to the notorious orchestral performances for the Auschwitz authorities and inmates by musicians from that concentration camp (notably the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz). Will the future consider current use of the Ode to Joy as equally perverse?
Although universally recognized as highly innovative, notably through inclusion of human voices, current use of the 9th Symphony raises the question as to whether other "voices" now urgently merit recognition in any symbolic composition -- given the patterns of thinking which have emerged since that time. In musical terms these are now typically in total contrast to symphonic music. They might even be said to be more consistent with the sounds of gunfire, cited as a background at the time of its composition (whether literally or metaphorically).
Curiously the music which has since emerged bears some resemblance to the playing of classical music backwards. Known as reverse music, it continues to be the subject of controversy associated with its early use in backmasking. In terms of classical musical tastes, rather than having the "angelic" quality of an anthem, it is effectively considered as an anathema, even "demonic" -- although potentially appealing to the tastes of wider portions of the population. No attempt has been made to reframe global initiatives in musical terms, as separately discussed (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006; Reframing the EU Reform Process -- through Song: responding to the Irish challenge to the Lisbon Treaty, 2008).
Conventional governance is now recognized as both surreal as well as inadequate (Surreal Nature of Current Global Governance as Experienced, 2016). The latter point introduced a more extensive discussion (Engaging with Hyperreality through Demonique and Angelique? 2016). This concluded with a discussion of the role of music, citing the role of reverse music (Engaging Creatively with Hyperreality through Music, 2016). Reference was also made to the even more controversial role of reverse speech, with the suggestion that this might be related to the doublespeak of which authorities are accused ever more frequently at this time (Enabling Suffering through Doublespeak and Doublethink, 2013; Occupying the Moral and Ethical High Ground through Doublespeak, 2013).
The argument here is that the key to any alternative mode of thinking, however controversial, may well be suggested by some form of reversal of the current modality -- especially the capacity to understand its complementary function. Despite antipathy to the demonic, the extent of "demonisation" of those who fail to "sing from the same hymn sheet" is widely evident -- most notably between political factions variously proposing alternative strategies . With respect to any anthem, "hymn sheet" may then be an especially inappropriate metaphor.
Problems and distress do indeed evoke songs, as do calls to action. This medium is however strangely dissociated from the modalities of international institutions in practice -- despite appropriation of Beethoven's Ode to Joy as the Anthem of Europe. However there is little evidence of music or song at international summits where they might have been used to articulate the concerns and opportunities in a complementary mode -- one potentially more widely comprehensible and communicable.
This argument has been developed separately (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006). The latter notes the 12 songs of The Globalization Saga: Balance or Destruction, 2004, as a CD accompaniment to a book by Franz Josef Radermacher (of the FAW - Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing, in association with the Global Marshall Plan Initiative).
Reversal and boustrophedon? Known as reverse tape effects, as might be expected experiments have been made with reversing the direction in which music is played, including the controversial use of so-called backmasking, as popularised by the Beatles. More recently this has become possible with the aid of reverse music players, notably as readily available apps for smartphones.
A classic argument for bi-directionality in script and reading is made in the light of boustrophedon. This is a process in which every other line of writing is flipped or reversed, possibly with reversed letters. This was a common way of writing in stone in Ancient Greece -- the inspiration for European culture -- with a number of modern examples. It is related to the mirror writing used by Leonardo da Vinci. The key to sustainability could itself be fruitfully explored as cognitively "hidden", justifying use of such devices.
The technique has inspired experimental music (Boustrophedon by Evan Parker - Transatlantic Art Ensemble), with a website offering music under that name (Boustrophedon), and another offering classical music played in reverse (Reverse Music).
Mirror canons: Classic composers, including Mozart, Bach and Haydn created pieces in which time, pitch and/or melody was reversed at some point -- a technique known as crab canon -- leading to studies on retrograde performance (Yingshou Xing, et al, Mozart, Mozart Rhythm and Retrograde Mozart Effects: evidences from behaviours and neurobiology bases, Scientific Reports 6, 2016).
As noted by the Riemenschneider Bach Institute, in three canons, including the Crucigeros, Bach employs an especially rigorous procedure in which intervals not only reverse direction but also strictly maintain quality as well as number. The follower voice of these "mirror" canons may be discerned, quite literally, in the reflected images of their leaders (The Crown of Thorns, 1997). Given the significance of the sets of variations, it is unclear what musical significance their reversal would have.
Given the importance attached to Beethoven's musical insight, the argument above invites attention to his capacity to generate the 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor (1806) following the earlier initiative of Johann Sebastian Bach (30 Goldberg Variations, 1741). These were a notably feature of the study on self-reflexivity by Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid, 1979). From what is the coherence of the pattern composed and produced by composer Benjamin Mapochi (La Folia 72 Variations)?
"Musical badness"? Despite the reverse music experiments, the issue is only partially addressed by the response of Bill Morrissey as one of many relevant comments on the question (Why does music sound bad when played backwards?, Music Practice and Theory Stack Exchange, January 2012 ):
"Why does music sound "negative" when played backwards. This allows a much simpler explanation being "because it is "negative" The same as a light image reversed is a "negative" image. Looking "Bad" "Strange" and "Demonic". Nothing is created in its negative state. Music is creation. It is created. When played or listened to backwards what we are experiencing is negativity which is degenerative,we are hearing creation decay or more descriptively speaking death. We as living creatures seek life and accept life. Death, decay, pestilence, disease, all negativity is rejected and known to be "bad" "Strange" and even "demonic". It sounds that way because it is.
Learning from reversal and distress: In a period in which there is concern with cultivation of a culture of fear, the use of music to that end merits exploration, as in the compilation by Neil Lerner (Music in the Horror Film: listening to fear, 2009). The Oxford Companion to Consciousness (2009) makes the point:
The musical function of an event also depends on its rhythmical position. Modifying the temporal structure of a melody suffices to alter the musical function of its notes, and this results in a radically new percept. For example, the pitches B C D E F G imply a major key, with the B as a unstable leading note and the C as the most referential tonic. Played in reverse order, G F E D C B, these pitches imply the key of B major, with the C being perceived as an unstable tone anchored in the referential tonic B. (p. 459)
Complementary insights are offered in the detailed analysis by Stephen McAdams (Psychological Constraints on Form-bearing Dimensions in Music, Contemporary Music Review, 1989). An online experiment has been offered by Daniel Ross (Can you tell what pieces of classical music we've reversed? Classic FM , 18 January 2016). Given the role of Beethoven's 9th Symphony -- an Ode to Joy -- as the anthem of Europe, it could be fruitfully asked what might be learned collectively by playing it in reverse, especially in a time of crisis of evident disconnect of governance from experiential reality. Perhaps as a Requiem to Joy or a Lament for Misery?
The experiment could be relevant to the use of many national anthems in times of crisis -- as with the significance of flying a flag upside-down as a distress signal. Given the sociopolitical crisis in the USA, what might be learned, and by whom, by playing The Star-Spangled Banner in reverse, as variously available on YouTube (Star Spangled Banner Reversed; The U.S.A Anthem Reversed )? With respect to flag reversal, in the case of the EU its design does not enable any other condition to be signalled. Symbolic in itself, as an inability to signal distress?
A version of the Ode to Joy, reversed in this way, is now readily accessible on YouTube. (where other classical pieces played in this manner may also be heard). Is the learning more striking in the case of reverse singing, as in the choral segments of the 9th Symphony?
Learning from "controversy" and "counterpoint"? Despite the continuing controversy about such reversal from a religious perspective, might critical appreciation of the alternative then suggest means whereby Europe could fruitfully "come to terms with its own demons"?
Social organization is significantly determined by the organization of the dominant musical composition of the times, as previously noted by Jacques Attali, (Noise: The Political Economy of Music, 1977). A form of "pattern exhaustion" may however now be evident with respect to classical organization (William Caplin, Classical Form: a theory of formal functions for the instrumental music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, 1998; Denis Galligan (Ed.), Constitutions and the Classics: patterns of constitutional thought from Fortescue to Bentham, 2015).
Is it possible that there are strategic dependencies which merit being called into question -- as explored in the parallels between music and quantum theory (Scott Shoger, Quantum Theory and Classical Music, Nuovo, 23 April 2014)? Cognitively these may take the form of derivative thinking, as separately argued (Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems, 2013).
Possible learning is indicated by Kate Bevan-Baker (Critical Backwards-Listening, Ampersand, 15 November 2015) with respect to the reverse performance of a folk song, The Blacksmith:
Though I have only selected one verse above, listening to it in its entirety provided me with a new view of the song, and I will never perform it the same way again now that I have heard and seen what it sounds and looks like in reverse... In a recording, the lyrics are totally morphed and cannot be made out in reverse. It gives the piece a completely different character when the lyrics cannot be heard or understood. Instead of telling a story through words, the piece becomes purely a musical statement on a different level.
Amongst other sound samples, that document provides access to an unusual piece by Mozart that can be played in either direction -- a musical palindrome:
There have been pieces written that sound the exact same played in reverse -- musical palindromes. Mozart even composed a duet that can be played with one player reading the music right-side-up, and another reading from upside-down.
Does this suggest that significant strategic insights might fruitfully emerge from such forms?
Insights from failure and "endarkenment"? The people of Europe readily recognize that these are "dark times" -- which the future may come to see as echoing the so-called Dark Ages of Europe.
Any such framing is of course necessarily problematic in its own right, typically suggesting a questionable "doom-mongering" focus on negativity -- a failure to focus on the positive, epitomized by Cassandra. This framing, consistent with simplistic public relations policies, has been notably criticized by Barbara Ehrenreich (Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, 2009). Any preference for "hope-mongering" at this time may therefore be totally misplaced (Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering, 2008).
This exploration was initially inspired by the limited understanding of the modes in which viable systems may fail -- as this may be of relevance to the question of sustainability and its requisite learnings (Variety of System Failures Engendered by Negligent Distinctions: mnemonic clues to 72 modes of viable system failure from a demonic pattern language, 2016). What is to be learned from considering whether Europe is essentially ungovernable -- as uni-modal governance is currently conceived (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy?, 2011).
The issues may be explored otherwise through the widely recognized value of learning from failure (Learning from Failure: what stops people from turning mistakes into success? The Economist, 10 October 2015; Amy C. Edmondson, Strategies for Learning from Failure, Harvard Business Review, April 2011; Guy Winch, The 4 Keys to Learning From Failure, The Huffington Post, 23 January 2014); It also invites exploration in more fundamental existential terms (Enlightening Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension, 2005).
Is Europe effectively subscribing to a "happy-clappy" image of itself through failure to honour those in distress -- its depressed, its unemployed, its homeless, its impoverished, and the desperate refugees at its borders? Should the Ode to Joy not then be performed in reverse in their honour, rather than reinforcing any perverse parallel with the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz? What are the vital insights which might emerge from such reversal?
Faced with problematic situations, the default European strategic response is typically framed in terms of stopping, blocking or preventing certain processes -- epitomized by anti-smoking campaigns, and prohibition of various kinds. This tendency is now strangely evident in explicit efforts to "block" the democratic expression of right wing perspectives. Progressive degradation in the quality of life suggests that these are of relatively limited success -- possibly to be recognized in terms of palliative tokenism.
As argued separately, could greater benefit result from "negative strategies" evoking popular reaction to excess, rather than depending on authoritarian prohibition (Liberating Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005; Enabling Fruitful Multiplication of Global Population, 2015)?
Whereas demonic entities figure extensively in video games, it is somewhat extraordinary to note the multitude of references to angels in popular song -- and to a far lesser degree in traditional hymns. The question is what intuitions are meaningfully cultivated and sustained through music in a world informed by the rational explanations of science?
"Angelique"?: Any response must necessarily go beyond those offered with respect to the traditions of religious music and chant. Reference is appreciatively made to angelic music and to angelic song. The image is offered of heaven being characterized by the song of angels, notably framed as a choir of angels (William Saunders, Choirs of Angels, Catholic Exchange, 18 September 2014). According to Catholic tradition and theological commentary, nine choirs of angels are distinguished as being associated with the different orders of angels.
Are anthems inherently unrealistic when they seek only to cultivate an "angelic" perspective in the face of widely evident suffering and distress? Given the traditional myth of the language of angels, the quest for the appropriate language for governance merits careful consideration (Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language in the European Culture, 1997)
"Demonique"?: With respect to the demonic, also of relevance is the extensive condemnation from a religious perspective of music and song deemed problematic (The Christian's Guide to Detecting Demonic Music, The Landover Baptist Church Forum, 2012; David J. Stewart, How Can Music Be Demonically Inspired? Jesus-is-Savior; Donald Phau, The Satanic Roots of Rock, Dial-the-Truth Ministries). Backmasking notably evoked such criticism.
This follows from earlier Catholic concerns with diabolus in musica -- now dismissed. How then might the "wicked problems" recognized by the policy sciences be rendered appropriately comprehensible through music? Why are such concerns so widely ignored as irrelevant to the times?
Musical transcendence: Of relevance here is the nature of the insight into any transcendent hyperreality enabled by music and song. Clearly the cognitive appeal of a "ninth choir" merits careful consideration, as previously discussed (Engaging Creatively with Hyperreality through Music, 2016). As noted, this was presented as the more comprehensible pssibility of engaging with the complexities of governance in this period (Engaging with Hyperreality through Demonique and Angelique? 2016).
Reference to the complex subtleties implied by the angelic and the demonic is partially consistent with the arguments of Pier Giuseppe Monateri (Rational Angels: understanding the theological background of economic rationality, Cardozo Electronic Law Bulletin, 2011; La Natura Angelica della Corporation).
Doublespeak: If the current inadequacy of political and other authorities is in some way due to their thinking being "back-to-front", this may be strangely related to what has long been labelled doublespeak (Enabling Suffering through Doublespeak and Doublethink, 2013; Occupying the Moral and Ethical High Ground through Doublespeak, 2013).
Doublespeak is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs, "servicing the target" for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war "peace"). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language
What is it that is sensed intuitively when exposed to those with preferences for doublespeak? Does doublespeak itself constitute a form of "reverse speech"? How does this relate to indicators of lying by politicians, as provocatively framed by Robert Hutton (How to tell a politician is lying...his lips move, MailOnline, 4 September 2014)?
Reverse speech: Intriguing in that regard is the research on reverse speech -- originally inspired by the controversial use of backmasking in music and song. This explores the extent to which the brain encodes its actual meaning in a reversal of what is explicitly stated. It is claimed that if human speech is recorded and played backwards, mixed amongst the gibberish at regular intervals can be heard very clear statements. Many examples are available via the web.
These statements usually appear in short sentence form and are nearly always related to the content of the forward speech. The phenomenon is said to appear constantly throughout language, so much so in fact, that it is held by some to be a natural part of human speech processes.
Playing recorded speech backwards is then held to make evident the subconscious intent of what is really meant. The argument could be held to be consistent with that of John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995; Voltaire's Bastards: the dictatorship of reason in the West, 1992).
This research, itself highly controversial, was originated by David John Oates (About Reverse Speech, ReverseSpeech; Beyond Backward Masking: reverse speech and the voice of the inner mind, 2013). According to Oates:
The applications of this discovery are exciting. On the surface level, it can act as a sort of Truth Detector as Reverse Speech will usually correct the inconsistencies of forward speech. If a lie is spoken forwards, the truth may be communicated in reverse. If pertinent facts are left out of forward speech these may also be spoken in reverse. It can reveal hidden motive and agenda and other conscious thought processes. At deeper levels, Reverse Speech can reveal thought patterns that are unconscious, including reasons behind behaviour and disease. This information can be used to greatly enhance the therapeutic and healing processes.
Oates argues that:
The criticism of that research as a pseudoscience is of particular relevance (John Shirley, Reverse Speech, Sceptical Inquirer; Brian Dunning, When People Talk Backwards, Skeptoid, 17 June 2008). The explanatory focus of the criticism is on the phenomenon of pareidolia, namely the process by which familiar patterns are perceived in disorder. The response to that criticism also merits consideration (Matjaz Kranjec, Response to The Skeptical Believer Article About Reverse Speech, Reverse Speech).
Curiously pareidolia could itself now be considered as significantly called into question by insights into predictive processing, as articulated by Andy Clark (Surfing Uncertainty: prediction, action and the embodied mind, 2016).
Speaking backwards: It is important to distinguish between reverse speech, as described above, and the capacity to speak backwards consciously. In one understanding the latter takes the form of a word game, as played in some cultures. In the case of the Bakwiri, the word game consists basically of taking the last syllable of a word and transposing it before the first one, as described by Jean M. Hombert (Speaking Backwards in Bakwiri, Studies in African Linguistics, 1973). A version of this form of syllabic manipulation, known as Verlan, is described by Natalie J. Lefkowitz (Verlan: Talking Backwards in French, The French Review, 1989):
I soon became aware that the unfamiliar sounds I was hearing were not French, but rather Verlan. What is Verlan? It is what Sherzer refers to as "speech play" in the form of a language game that involves syllable inversion, and varies in complexity according to the number of syllables in the word (Joel Sherzer, [Play Languages: implications for sociolinguistics], 1976). The term Verlan is hence a metathesis of l'envers "re verse," e.g. l'envers versl'en >verlan.
Such word play, as language games, exists in a variety of cultures (as extensively listed by Wikipedia) as a process of language obfuscation or secret language (Eric Campbell, Probing Phonological Structure in Play Lnguage: speaking backwards in Zenzontepec Chatino; Bruce Bagemihl, The Crossing Constraint and 'Backwards Languages', Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 1989). The issue is of some significance in relation to glossolalia, described by linguists as the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning (Is there a scientific explanation for the evangelical Christian phenomenon of speaking in tongues? Quora).
One blog offers advice on How To Speak Backwards: A Crash Course. The ability to do so is framed and studied as a remarkable skill (Meet The Backwards-Speaking Girl, NPR Arts and Life, 7 February 2010; The 11-year-old boy who can talk backwards fluently, MailOnline, 11 November 2013; N. Cowan, Speaking Backwards: a case study, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1980). From some religious perspectives, such a capacity has been considered evidence of possession (Devil Child Floors Parents by Fluently Speaking Backwards English, 11 November 2013).
A distinctive interpretation is described by Wim M. J. van Binsbergen (Intercultural Encounters: African and Anthropological lessons towards a philosophy of interculturality, LIT Verlag Mãnster, 2003):
In order to pinpoint the peculiar handling of historic Africn cultural and religious material in the context of the intellectual genre of "African philosophy", Mudimbe cointed the term retrodiction ("speaking backwards"): frican clerical intellctuals... are said to have engaged in retrodiction when they reconstructed and vicariously represented a pre-colonial, pre-Christian African village-based life-world, in which they themselves no longer lived or blieved, and which yet was dear to them as a source of inspiration and pride -- as an identity recaptured in the face of the North Atlantic rejection of Black people and their powers of thought and agency. (p. 446)
Freudian slip: Given the level of media attention to any slip of the tongue on the part of politicians, should the same be expected of the comprehensible content of reversed speech. The argument for the significance of reverse speech merits consideration in terms of the long-recognized phenomenon of the Freudian slip.
Also termed parapraxis, this is an error in speech, memory, or physical action that is interpreted as occurring due to the interference of an unconscious ("dynamically repressed") subdued wish or internal train of thought. It is claimed to reveal a "source [of ideas] outside the speech". The concept is thus part of classical psychoanalysis.
Examples of parapraxes involve slips of the tongue and of the pen, but psychoanalytic theory also embraces misreadings, mishearings, temporary forgettings, and the mislaying and losing of objects.(M. T. Motley, Slips of the Tongue, Scientific American, 253, 1985, pp. 116-127; Jena Pincott, Slips of the Tongue, Psychology Today, 13 March 2012; Bernard J. Baars et al., Some Caveats on Testing the Freudian Slip Hypothesis; problems in systematic replication, 1992)
Such slips can also be considered to be more evident under conditions described by the adage in vino veritas.
Subliminal perception: This is a consequence of subliminal stimuli, namely any sensory stimuli below an individual's threshold for conscious perception. As noted by Wikipedia, a recent review of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies shows that such stimuli activate specific regions of the brain despite participants being unaware.
Visual stimuli may be quickly flashed before an individual can process them, or flashed and then masked, thereby interrupting the processing. Audio stimuli may be played below audible volumes or masked by other stimuli. Of relevance to the above argument is the extensive research on such phenomena, notably with respect to subliminal advertising.
At a time of global crisis most authorities are at a loss, or are reduced to repeating their respective mantras to an audience of selected believers -- of which the performance of the European Anthem is symptomatic. It might then be asked whether reservations regarding reversal merit the attention which they claim to deserve.
However it is not as though the thinking of authorities is proving to be adequate to engaging with the crisis. That thinking might be better characterized as a remarkable capacity for the parties to criticize each others methodology -- as variously reviewed by Nicholas Rescher (The Strife of Systems: an essay on the grounds and implications of philosophical diversity, 1985; Error: on our predicament when things go wrong, 2006; Ignorance: on the wider implications of deficient knowledge. 2009; Unknowability, 2009).
Expressed otherwise, authorities demonstrate a remarkable capacity to deny each others truth -- despite the suffering and violence to which this may lead. This is compounded by a pattern of blame-gaming, broken promises and tokenism for which there are no adequate methodologies (Collective Mea Culpa? You Must be Joking ! Them is to blame, Not us ! 2015).
The situation is further exacerbated by dissemination of conspiracy theories -- whatever the evidence that may be advanced.
Cognitive revolutions: Just as political, religious and academic authorities are wont to declare that There Is No Alternative, so it is to be expected that the cognitive and symbolic implications of reversal are to be criticized as without appropriate theoretical foundation grounded in evidence. Such reversal could however be considered inherent in any understanding of their respective revolutions, most notably as reviewed with respect to science by Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962).
A striking example is offered by critical commentary on the research of Rupert Sheldrake, most recently with respect to a TED talk regarding his most recent book (The Science Delusion: freeing the spirit of enquiry, Coronet, 2012). This aroused an unprecedented level of critical commentary within the TED community (The debate about Rupert Sheldrake's talk, TED, 19 March 2013; Paul Bignell, TED conference censorship row, The Independent, 7 April 2013). The controversy had first been epitomized by an editorial review of his early book (A New Science of Life: the hypothesis of formative causation, 1981) in the prestigious journal Nature. It was reviewed under the title: A book for burning? (Nature, September 1981). Written by the journal's senior editor, John Maddox, the editorial stated:
...Sheldrake's book is a splendid illustration of the widespread public misconception of what science is about. In reality, Sheldrake's argument is in no sense a scientific argument but is an exercise in pseudo-science... Many readers will be left with the impression that Sheldrake has succeeded in finding a place for magic within scientific discussion -- and this, indeed, may have been a part of the objective of writing such a book.
In 1999, Maddox characterized his 1981 editorial as "injudicious", even though it concluded that Sheldrake's book:
...should not be burned... but put firmly in its place among the literature of intellectual aberration.... The publicists for Sheldrake's publishers were nevertheless delighted with the piece, using it to suggest that the Establishment (Nature) was again up to its old trick of suppressing uncomfortable truths.
Given Oates Australian base, it is appropriate to note the struggle of two other Australian researchers with respect to their work on helicobacter pylori. As noted, following their receipt of the Nobel Prize, by Niyaz Ahmed (23 years of the discovery of Helicobacter pylori: Is the debate over? Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, 2005):
The clinical community, however, met their findings, with skepticism and a lot of criticism and that's why it took quite a remarkable length of time for their discovery to become widely accepted.
A similar pattern wass evident with respect to research on quasicrystals, for which a Nobel Prize was ultimately awarded. The recipient was repeatedly deprecated for his investigations by a previous double Nobel laureate in that same domain. Evident to a degree with respect to evidence of climate change, the pattern is also evident otherwise (Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, 2010). Curiously science has limited means for acknowledging such processes or their implications for delays in the advancement of knowledge, as discussed separately (Knowledge Processes Neglected by Science, 2012)
Research avoidance: In the case of reverse speech, as noted by Wikipedia, universities and research institutes have refused to test such theories -- claiming a lack of theoretical basis to make the predictions even worth testing, and the fact that many of the claims are untestable. Others have criticized "reverse speech" as lacking a rigorous methodology and not being informed by an understanding of issues in conventional linguistics.
It is however questionable whether research in doublespeak escapes the criticism currently applied to reverse speech. Given the manner in which reverse speech and Freudian slips may variously underlie political doublespeak, long recognized as a reality, there is clearly a case for undertaking experiments at this time with the recorded speeches of leaders of political factions.
An especially obvious application at the time of writing would be an analysis of the readily available speeches of the leading contenders in the US presidential campaign for leadership of the world's acclaimed superpower (Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders). Controversially, a number of such analyses have already been made with respect to the speeches of Barack Obama (acceptance speech, motivation, healthcare, Syria).
Are there in fact hidden messages in their communications of which their voters should be aware? Or, given the arguments for subliminal perception, are they already aware of them to some degree? Arguably the surprising popular appeal of Donald Trump could prove to be associated with recognition of the consistency of his overt declarations with his covert opinions -- especially in the light of his more scandalous assertions.
Extraction of coherent text fragments from such recordings could in principle be readily automated, given recent advances in voice recognition software.
Confirmation bias and cover-up: A comparative analysis of critical appreciation by authorities is called for with respect to confirmation bias in research on doublespeak, reverse music, reverse speech, Freudian slips of the tongue, and subliminal stimuli. This could be done in anticipation of redefining research funding priorities by the European Commission. Of particular relevance are the stages of self-protection in which authorities engage when challenged as remarkably articulated in a Wikipedia entry offering a typology of cover-ups.
Critics of reverse speech research would clearly need to take account of the fact that their reservations are themselves subject to the criticism of being biased in the light of dependence on future government funding for any other work. For those dependent on defence funding, the probable reaction to reverse speech analysis of military spokesmen could well be recognized as fatal.
Ironically it is to be expected that the military and other security services would more readily address these matters in order to augment their capacity for the detection of threat. Presumably reverse music is already explored as a technique for enhanced interrogation. Similarly reverse speech would be expected to figure in enhanced lie detection, notably that enabled in voice commanded TVs, as discussed separately (Naive Acquisition of Dual-use Surveillance Technology, 2015).
Potential cognitive challenges of reversal: Some unrecognized implications of reversal have been made evident in a remarkable experiment with a bicycle redesigned such that the handlebars turn the front wheel in the opposite direction to that expected by those who have long learned how to ride a conventional bike. The implications are highlighted by a video (Everyone Failed To Ride This Bicycle -- The Reason Behind Is Mind-Boggling).
One conclusion is that the knowledge required to ride a bike is not equivalent to understanding of how to do so. What implications might this have for governance, both in general and for the capacity to implement any radically distinct alternative? Do propoenents of any alternative "know" how to do so, but fail to acknowledge the probable lack of "understanding" of how to do so -- as demonstrated so clearly by the bicycle experiment? Missing is the recognition of the counterintuitive nature of the challenge (J. W. Forrester, , Counterintuitive Behavior of Social Systems, Technology Review, 1971; J. Havil, Impossible? Surprising solutions to counterintuitive conundrums, 2008)
With respect to the current challenges of governnce, it would also appear that most authorities "know" what remedial action should be taken, but seemingly do not "understand" how to take it.
Religions have for centuries made use of music to enable insight and discourse with regard to the heavenly, however explained. Relatively little use has however been made of music and song to convey insight with regard to remedial action in response to the "problematique", as framed by the Club of Rome.
It might have been expected that the corresponding "resolutique" would have evoked as much insight into the role of song as has been evident with respect to theological framing of angelic choirs. Although the question could be asked as to what degree that framing inspired musical insight rather than verbal commentary and imagery.
Harmonisation? Curiously the overriding strategic focus of European institutions is that of "harmonisation". The challenge is framed as achieving "concord" amongst the disparate voices of the member states.
More curious however is the total failure to elicit insights from the theory of musical harmony which is so fundamental to the composition and performance of Ode to Joy. Harmonisation in music is the chordal accompaniment to a line or melody. This contrasts, seemingly, with the interpretation by the European institutions in terms of harmonisation of standards and the harmonisation of law.
Ironically the primary preoccupation of the European Commision with respect to harmonisation and music relates to intellectual copyright (Christina Angelopoulos, The Myth of European Term Harmonisation, Institute for Information Law; P. Bernt Hugenholtz, Harmonisation or Unification of Eurioean Union Copyright Law, 2012). The European Commission is however currently funding a project on Concept Invention Theory (COINVENT), notably concerned with:
The specific music-related component of COINVENT is to study how a melodic harmonisation assistant may be creative, not only in a sense of generating new harmonisations in given styles, but, rather, generating new harmonic concepts that result in new harmonic spaces per se. Having devised basic melodic harmonisation systems (e.g. employing statistical grammars), say, for tonal/modal/atonal music, the question is how a melodic harmoniser may be prompt to invent new harmonic concepts when dealing with potential conflicts or purely for creative purposes.
When legal comparatists refer to "harmony", they are very often using the wrong musical metaphor, for what they are really proposing is not harmony but "unison". In the terminology of choral singing, unison is when the different voices (soprano, alto, tenor, bass and so forth) sing the same tune. Harmony, in contrast, is where the different voices of the choir sing different "tunes", but in such a way that their combined effect is aesthetically pleasing. Scholars concerned to achhieve harmony between the local laws of different nation states ought to be aiming for harmony in its musical sense, for it is in this sense of harmony that local differences may be retained even as international appreciation and tolerance are attained. The problem, of course, is... legal scholars are frequently ignorant of, or at least insufficiently attentive to, the metaphors which constitute the essence of their language and thought.... Most insist upon using harminisation as a pleasant sounding shorthand for homogenisation. As Robert Leckey observed when reflecting on the relation between local and federal laws in the Canadian context, nous ne presumons pas que les architectes de l'initiative fédérale d'harmonisation aient à un moment ou un autre réfléchi mûrement sur l'harmonie musicale. (pp. 98-99)
Monateri cites as an exception Esin Orücü (The Enigma of Comparative Law: variations on a theme for the Twenty-first Century, 2004) in exploiting the musical metaphor extensively:
The title evokes Elgar's Enigma Variations and the conventions by which a composer offers his or her own work as a "variation on a theme" by another composer. The parts of Orücü's book include "Overture", "Intermezzo", "Cadenza" and "Coda", and the substance of her argument is to promote polyphony and "harmony rather than harmonization" (a fine distinction). (p. 99)
Agreement? There is the strange possibility that the political "agreement" conventionally sought could be reviewed in the light of what is understood by "concord" in music -- in contrast with the "disagreement" recognized in music as "discord". The theory of harmony might well recognize that any discord could be "embodied" or "incorporated" (with aesthetic justification) within a work of sufficient scope to render it meaningful. There would however be the corollary that any degree of concord could be rendered musically uninteresting within a work of too limited a scope. From such a perspective efforts at harmonisation within Europe -- if successful -- run the risk of institutionalizing unattractive monontony.
If the "scope" required to encompass high degrees of discord is then a matter of time and duration, it is interesting to note that agreement in its institutional sense is essentially static and is minimally associated with the dynamics of the multiple forms of agreement rendered explicit by music in a necessarily extensive work. Is time as yet to be appropriately embodied in the European project, as might be envisaged (Strategic Embodiment of Time: configuring questions fundamental to change, 2010; Cognitive embodiment in time in contrast to extra-temporal explanation, 2013)?
Whilst inspiration may be evoked for some by occasional performance of the Ode to Joy, the reality experienced by many is framed by a vast array of legal directives and regulations within which "harmony" is difficult to detect. This significantly contributes to the democratic deficit and to popular indifference to the European project. It is of course the case that many seek their sense of harmony through music which contrasts significantly with the principles of the Ode to Joy, as caricatured by the images below.
|Contrasting caricatures of "harmonisation"
(Reproduced from Governing Civilization through Civilizing Governance: global challenge for a turbulent future, 2008)
|Top-down "static" vision?
|Bottom-up "non-static" vision?
|EU "non-Constitutional" Reform Treaty (in process of ratification under questionable conditions of "democratic deficit") suppressing reference to the EU anthem (Beethoven's Ode to Joy)||Eurovision
Song Contest Winner (Athens, 2006)
Elected overwhelmingly through a record Europe-wide popular "democratic process"
(Lordi's song Hard Rock Hallelujah)
Irrespective of the Ode to Joy, it is curious that the 12 stars of the European Flag (as its primary symbol) should not have evoked some association to the 12-tone technique of musical composition previously developed by Arnold Schoenberg. Given that the technique is a means of ensuring that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another in a piece of music (while preventing the emphasis of any one note), it could have been interpreted as a vital source of insight of strategic relevance to the European project.
Organisation? Given the need for further clarification regarding the nature of "harmonisation" in Europe, the argument can be extended to its "organisation". Seemingly little attention is given to the origins of the term as indicated by its etymology (Organization: etymology and origins, Orgtheory.net, 2007), most notably in relation to "organ". Of particular relevance is early reference to the singing of the organum, to a new method of singing (commonly called organization), to a musical instrument, as a tool for making or doing, or as a religious performance. Use of "organ" came eventually to encompass both the instrument of that name and the parts of a living body. Use of "organization" became associated with the establishment of order.
Early reference to "organum", as to sing in Symphoniae, evolved into a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony (an example can be heard via Wikipedia). It is associated with rhythmic modes, notably the organum triplum and organum quadruplum and the development of polyphony in medieval music as "parallel organums". It is of course the case that complex global structures are characterized as having a variety of "organs", with the term being treated as synonymous with "institutions" -- but with little consideration of any potential musical or biological interpretation (Organs and Institutions of the European Union; Principal Organs of the United Nations). In aesthetic terms, lack of agreement between them could be readily perceived as cacophony rather than as euphony.
Curiously the widely cited set of metaphors for the comprehension of organization by Gareth Morgan (Images of Organization, 2007) makes no reference to the musical dimension with which organizational "harmony" is presumably associated. Morgan looks at organizations using the nine metaphors of a machine, an organism, the brain, a culture, a political system, a psychic prison, flux and transformation, and a domineering entity, as noted by Matthew J. Lambert III (A review of Images of Organization, by Gareth Morgan, 2006, Complicity: an international journal of complexity and education, 6, 2009, 2).
The triangular schematic (left below) would seem to be more fundamental to how organization could be better understood in relation to harmonisation. It can be usefully explored in terms of the image on the right, basic to the mathematical argument (using Q-analysis) of the challenge of communication (Ron Atkin, Multidimensional Man; can man live in 3-dimensional space ? 1981; Jacky Legrand, How far can Q-analysis go into social systems understanding?. Fifth European Systems Science Congress, 2002), as reviewed separately with respect to incommunicability (Social organization determined by incommunicability of insights). Using colour perception, Atkin's argument discusses the more restrictive modes of comprehension -- the isolation of 0-dimensional vision and the distinctive polarities of 1-dimensional vision -- framing an integrative 2-dimensional vision.
|Organization as an elusive
|Use of RGB colour triangle
to frame comprehension of white
--- Red, Green or Blue
--- Yellow (=Red/Green);
--- Purple (=Red/Blue); or
--- Turquoise (=Blue/Green)
--- White (=Red/Green/Blue)
This then suggests that "organization" is far more elusive, as a challenge to comprehension, than is conventionally assumed -- underlying an organic and musical sense of patterned dynamic, to the point of requiring a form of synaesthesia. As a verb it implies a process of engendering the living complexity of a body, potentially more readily comprehended through its instrumentation in music. The organ as a musical instrument is therefore a powerful metaphor, especially given the skills required to play it. A similar point could be made regarding its metabolic dynamics as a living body. Could the European project be better understood in such terms?
Attractiveness? It would seem that there is an interplay to be explored between the following factors -- recognizing their musical and institutional expressions, and how they are "instrumentalized":
What might be understood as "agreeable" with respect to the European project? In musical terms this could be understood as "attractive" (Imagining Attractive Global Governance, 2013). The possibility that aesthetic harmony (notably musical lyrics) might offer a way forward has been separately discussed (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic?; All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony?).
Given the long-recognized association of music and mathematics, and the quest of both for forms of order, this quest could be fruitfully related to new understanding of the meaning of order as sought within the European project. Of particular value is the question asked from the perspective of cognitive science by George Lakoff and Rafael Núñez (Where Mathematics Comes From: how the embodied mind brings mathematics into being, 2000). That title might be usefully reframed (if not generalized) as where organization comes from: how the embodied mind brings organization into being. This seemingly lost sense of the roots of organization then leads to "derivative thinking" by institutions, in its various manifestations as mentioned above (Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems, 2013).
The music appropriate to the surreal nature of the times may call for dialectical dimensions capable of encompassing paradox and contradiction. The video presentation by George Hart (Mathematical Impressions: making music with a Mã¶bius Strip, Simons Foundation, 12 August 2013), and the range of comments on it, are an indication of such a possibility. Reference is notably made there to the work of Dmitri Tymoczko (A Geometry of Music: harmony and counterpoint in the extended common practice, 2011). This is of particular interest to the extent that debate continues about the variable "geometry of Europe" of different "speeds" (Sophie de Ruffray, Toward a Typology of Spatial Forms of Europe's Boundaries: an approach by students' interpretative mental maps, Belgeo, 2013; Alternation between Variable Geometries, 1985).
Collective forgetting and commemoration: With respect to both harmony and organisation the argument highlights the sense in which the roots from which they derive are readily lost in terms of their potential functional implications, rather than as an etymological curiousity -- a "detail of history". This loss can be explored in terms of the erosion of collective memory (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory, 1980). Performance of the Ode to Joy can be then be a recognized as an effort to remember such roots -- framed as the motivating values is commorative celebration. As a mnemonic, the "angelic" voices of such a performance highlight the contrast with the "demonic" events evoking the commemoration. These factors might be juxtaposed as follows:
|"angelic"||rememembered origin||"risen" to insight|
|"demonic"||forgotten origin||"fallen" from insight|
This distinction draws attention to the subtler quality of communication associated with the harmonious connectivity of the angelic mode in contrast to that of the fragmented characteristics of a demonic mode, whatever the apparent advantages of its specialization. Angels could be said to remember their origin, in contrast to demons. In that respect, a point is usefully suggested in the discussion of "transaction costs" by Pier Giuseppe Monateri (Rational Angels: understanding the theological background of economic rationality, Cardozo Electronic Law Bulletin, 2011). The cost of achieving coherent communication across sectors is much higher in a demonic mode than through an angelic mode enabled by aesthetic rootedness and memorable correspondences, as highlighted in the case of poetry (Poetry-making and Policy-making: arranging a marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993).
Sonification of discourse? The point may be made otherwise by reference to the increasingly recognized role of sonification as a means of enabling meaningful comprehension of patterns of a high degree of complexity, as promoted by the International Community for Auditory Display. Given the capacity of the ear to detect such patterns, it is regrettable that the focus on angelic choirs has been limited to overly simplistic hierarchical configurations, at a time when engagement with higher orders of complexity is seemingly required. It might even be argued that music perceived as demonic is currently valued because it reflects such complexity to some degree.
In a global civilization in which many constituencies favour expression with one voice -- their own, however -- the question of how many "voices" merit expression in a complex society suggests the possibility of articulating the challenge in musical terms. If the 9 angelic choirs represent distinct "voices", what insights are associated with their respective singing -- perhaps as archetypes implied by the Directorates of the European Commission or the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations?
The argument with respect to the number of voices and their relationship in multi-part singing is explored separately (Enabling a 12-fold Pattern of Systemic Dialogue for Governance, 2011). Of further interest is understanding the conditions and modalities enabling improvisation (Multivocal Poetic Discourse Emphasizing Improvisation: clarification of possibilities for the future, 2012).
Is there an aesthetic dimension to governance which may be especially valuable to some developing cultures at this time, as well as appreciated globally in the more distant future (Knowledge Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000; Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990)?
It is curious to recognize how little attention is given to the directionality of reading any text or music score -- and performing the music in the latter case. As noted above, Mozart even composed a piece that can be played in either direction -- a musical palindrome -- a duet that can be played with one player reading the music right-side-up, and another reading from upside-down.
It is therefore useful to consider the possible directions of reading, and especially the manner in which they are especially associated with different cultures -- or different periods of time. These may suggest significant strategic insights from the variants, especially since so much is strongly associated with "left" and "right" in politics, with those preferring one or the other seeking by every means to shift others to their sense of appropriate directionality.
The pattern of directionality in script reading may well be summarized by the following table. Attention is primarily given to the colured zones in the centre, and notably that coded red -- namely reading from left-to-right (LTR), starting from the top and reading down. This is characteristic of many scripts dating from that of Greece. By contrast, right-to-left, top-to-bottom (RTL) script, coded green in the table, is characteristic of Arabic script and Hebrew. Many East Asian scripts (notably including Chinese and Japanese) can be written horizontally or vertically -- allowing for flexibility for the direction in which texts can be written, be it horizontally from left-to-right, horizontally from right-to-left, vertically from right-to-left, and even vertically from bottom-to-top.These patterns are primarily associated with the other coded zones in the table.
The table includes the less common possibility (discussed above) of the boustrophedon, namely a pattern in which the direction of reading is reversed at the end of every line. This was characteristic of some writing in Ancient Greece -- reading from top down. Clearly there is the possibility of reverse directions, whether starting at the right, or starting at the bottom. It could also be applied to vertical reading. The table therefore offers 16 reading modalities, potentially suggestive of preferences in governance and politics, as further explored separately (Bias in Governance from Unquestioned Directionality of Reading: political implications of reading texts from left-to-right versus right-to-left? 2016).
|Varieties of Directionality in Reading -- and in Politics?|
Musical scores (notably in modern staff notation) are typically ordered in terms of notational signs written left-to-right (and top-to-bottom), following the pattern inherited from Greece (though the direction could be adapted like in certain Syriac manuscripts). There are many forms of music notation and it continues to be characterized by considerable innovation and experiment -- as with the challenge of its comprehension (David Griffin, Systematic Notations and the Relations between Paper and Music; Susan Ella George, Visual Perception of Music Notation: on-line and off-line recognition, 2005). The same cannot be said of reading text, especially given the manner in which so much of global goverance is locked into a left-to-write, top-down sense of directionality -- a symbol and a symptom of the challenges of governance at this time.
It is curious that any movement from right-to-left is deprecated in many contexts (possibly even framed as "evil"), in contrast to movement from left-to-right (indicative of the "good"). This is not the case in dance in which a full range of patterns is possible. The distinction is notably explored as significant in biology in terms of chirality (namely handedness), as well as in nanotechnology (Exposing "evil twins", Research at University of Cambridge, 16 May 2014). Noting in passing the issue of handedness in politics, the phenomenon is reviewed in greater detail by James P. Riehl (Exploring Mirror-Image Asymmetry: an introduction to the origin and consequences of chirality, 2011).
The possibility of "post-chiral politics" is noted by Herbert Snorrason (Chirality as a Fundamental Phenomenon, 27 June 2012). Appropriate to this argument, this theme has now been explored with respect to sustainability in an extensive chapter devoted to Underlying Disturbing Processes: assymmetries, coriolis and chirality, by Pierre Massotte and Patrick Corsi (Sustainability Calling: underpinning technologies, 2015, pp. 47-82). Given the fundamental importance of handedness in framing strategies of governance, it might be asked why there are remarkably few references to chirality in that connection -- despite extensive study of it in the life sciences.
Given the patterns in terms of which political dynamics might be "read", the resmblance of the above set to the classic Endless Knot suggested the following speculative exercise in chirality. The top right quadrant in the vertical reflection of that on the top left. The bottom right is the horizontal reflection of that on the top left. The bottom right is the vertical reflection of that on the bottom left. The directions represented within each quadrant are then variously similar or inverted with respect to those in the other quadrant.
|Directional chirality in governance and music?
(horizontal and vertical reflections of the Endless Knot)
Individually, but especially when combined or superimposed, the quadrants are reminiscent of the famous Gordian Knot which features in discussions of governance, as summarized separately (Mapping grossness: Gordian knot of governance as a Discordian mandala? 2016). As might be expected, "Endless Knot" has been adopted as the name of a music group -- whose productions are readily available on the web.
Despite the level of crisis and threat, it is remarkable to note the enthusiasm of some for symbolic performance of classical music in celebration of governance -- as it might have been, but clearly is not. As sponsored by European institutions, this includes: the Euro Symphonic Orchestra, the European Union Youth Orchestra, the European Union Youth Wind Orchestra, and the European Union Choir. The most notable ceremonial recognition of distress is flying a flag at half-mast (or half-staff) as a symbol of respect or mourning. The anthem may be played (or sung) on that occasion.
The title of this proposal -- Reversing the Anthem of Europe to Signal Distress -- usefully holds the ambiguity between "distress as calling for assistance" and "distress as an expression of empathy for the suffering".
This argument raises the question as to whether current ceremonies could be usefully challenged as reflecting a "half-truth" -- if not a sham. Does this imply in any way the highly problematic use of "flag" in reference to "false flag" operations? Such covert operations are designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by flag-bearers other than those who actually planned and executed them.
In failing to engage with the distress resulting from the failures of governance, the question is raised as to what is missing in symbolic and cognitive terms. In what modality might that be recognized? The role of the missing is the focus of the analysis by neuroanthropologist Terrence W. Deacon (What's Missing from Theories of Information? 2010; Incomplete Nature: how mind emerged from matter, 2011). In the spirit of the Taoist classic, it is the framing of what is not there, the "hole" in the argument, that makes it useful. There is indeed profit to be gained from what is in the "unifying vision" conventionally presented so explicitly. However usefulness is to be gained from "what is not there", but may be present implicitly.
As argued, a case could indeed be made for a European performance of Ode to Joy in reverse, with due ceremony and publicity, in order to elicit such insight. This might be followed by a conventional performance to evoke a sense of complementarity -- an aural equivalent to stereoscopic perception of depth, as argued with respect to truth by John Robinson (Truth is Two-Eyed, 1979). What would the contrasts suggest? Could Europe learn to "walk on two legs" rather than being challenged to "hop along on one"?
Especially intriguing is whether the instrumentalists would be capable of playing the score in reverse, given the standards of musicality and technique normally required. Could the challenge evoke new qualities of interpretation? The alternative would be to play a conventional recording in reverse -- a symbolic choice in its own right.
As noted above, the argument could be applied to use of the national anthems of individual countries. Rather than conventional performance of La Marseillaise in formal ceremonies mourning the fatalities of the Paris attacks of 2015, should it (also) be performed in reverse? With Belgium as the headquarters of the European Union, and the focus of the Brussels attacks of 2016, should La Brabançonne have also been played in reverse at their commemoration?
A more general problem is evident in the case of the United Nations. As described for the UN History Project, in a detailed summary of various initiatives by David Allen (Music and the United Nations):
Though the United Nations quickly adopted a flag so as to distinguish its property, personnel, and actions, the question of a "national anthem" has never been resolved. The General Assembly has in principle recognized the need for an anthem, though as an anthem is no more than symbolic and has no immediate, practical purpose (unlike a flag), there has been little impetus towards the resolution of the issue. Part of the problem, indeed, is that the General Assembly has reserved for itself the right to select any prospective anthem, bringing politics into the equation.
Various unofficial anthems have however been produced, as noted by Allen: The Hymn to the United Nations, the unofficial anthem of the UN and an Earth Anthem produced at the request of U Thant. A World Anthem (UN Anthem) has been produced by merging 194 national anthems tunes into a single tune using artificial intelligence music software to create an Anthem of the World. This approach is indicative of the ease with which the reverse could now be explored. It is also indicative of the possibility of superposition of forward and reverse communication, with whatever this may come to imply. Available software to manage and represent musical scores, such as hyperscore, could allow for a range of experiments in the light of the various patterns of directionality highlighted above. Could regular measures (bars) be played vertically on a score page, for example, and with what cognitive implications for governance?
Coincidentally, at the time of writing, an interpretation of Mozart's Mitridate, Re di Ponto has been scheduled at the principal Brussels opera house. The promotional material indicated that, as conceived, such an event had never happened before -- namely the transformation of a Mozart opera into the contemporary settings of an EU summit in a period of conflict.
The opera is the story of a leader, fighting the dominance of another power. How do the organizers -- Jean-Philippe Clarac and Olivier Deloeuil (in collaboration through Le Lab) -- hope that the opera will engage with the dynamics of governance? They indeed recognize that Brussels-based stakeholders are not necessarily enthusiasts of opera.
As the organizers partially acknowledge, irrespective of the performance itself, the context is itself symbolic of the problematic condition of Europe. The traditional opera house (La Monnaie) is in process of renovation -- meaning reformation? The opera is therefore staged in a tent on the outskirts of Brussels. Being placed in a long telephone queue, in the effort to obtain detailed information on the intention behind the initiative, was a reminder of the problem of citizens in engaging with European bureacracy -- especially given the repeated promises every few mintues that the anticipated waiting time was "five minutes".
The organizers explicitly indicate that involving the "spectator-citizen" has been central to their intention. They state: Specifically, in this production of Mitridate, an aesthetic of presence encourages everyone to think about their place in the ceremony of live performance, so that each spectator can experience an essential encounter, that is to say, one with him/herself.
They ask: what does it mean to be a spectator at the opera? What is it to be a spectator and, more particularly here, in the heart of Brussels? More generally: what is it to be a European, today?... Opera raises questions about our own time, while constantly asking us questions about the very idea of community.
They see the challenge in terms of an interplay of rhythm and emotion, a formal ordering of codes thanks to which public activity and private passion ceaselessly influence each other, in political life and in the family dynasties in power today as in those who used to be called the "mighty". Does such language obscure the kind of insight which might otherwise be expected from the initiative? A reminder of the inadequacy of current political declarations?
It is hoped that opera can however be experienced as a politico-musical ceremony for "us" all. A bringing into play of the dysfunctions of the European Union, its deadlocks, and its possible future. Because, today more than ever, our generation needs to seize hold of the European dream.
Missing, in the light of the argument above is how the structure and dynamics of the opera -- its expression of musical harmony at its best -- are to be understood as enabling the challenges of European goverance to be imagined in new and more fruitful ways.
What are the new insights into "harmonisation" which it might be hoped to make evident? Where is the set of relevant questions -- posed in "politico-musical" terms -- which the spectator-citizens could have to hand when exposed to the opera? What might EU advisers and officials take away from the opera to reframe their own thinking -- in contrast to any exposure to the plays of Shakespeare or Ancient Greece exploring the same themes.
There are currently numerous video resources on the web framing the intentions of the organizers with respect to the opera. Does this again recall the numerous declarations made by politicans with respect to the European Project? Will the Mitridate performance end up being a metaphor for Europe as it now is -- rather than as it might be?
Thet opera -- composed when Mozart was only 14 years old -- offers a further symbolic challenge for the governors of today. If learnings are indeed engendered thereby for them, it would set a strange precedent. The governors of Europe do not have a remarkable track record of learning from the young in this period -- especially since the far greater proportion derive meaning from a music in total contrast to that of Mozart (as noted above with respect to the Eurovision Song Contest). Could those governors be said to have learned anything from Beethoven's Ode to Joy -- now the Anthem of Europe -- composed when he was at the height of his maturity?
Will the opera simply be "consumed" as a cultural commodity by what is effectively an audience condemned to passivity -- thereby self-defined as "couch potatoes"?
A case for playing Mitridate, Re di Ponto in reverse -- in order to evoke new thinking through appropriate provocation? Given Mozarts's interest in musical palindromes, he would surely have been intrigued by the possibility of multiple directions of reading and performing any score (as suggested above).
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this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.