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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Sep > Sep 23

Role Of Music In Interstellar Communication

From: Stig Agermose <stig.agermose@privat.dk>
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 04:18:10 +0200
Fwd Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 15:45:03 -0400
Subject: Role Of Music In Interstellar Communication

Source: SPACE.com via Yahoo News




The Pulse of Life: Music of Our World and Beyond

Thu Sep 12, 8:20 AM ET

By Douglas Vakoch, SPACE.com


As the deep, rich drone of a didgeridoo continued to emanate
from a portable CD player, American composer Andrew Kaiser
wrapped up his argument for the role of music in interstellar
communication. Speaking at a recent workshop in Paris, Kaiser
echoed the sentiments of others at the meeting, stressing the
fruitful interplay of art and science in constructing
interstellar messages.

The workshop was one of an ongoing series of international
meetings that brings together artists and scientists to discuss
ways to create messages that might some day be transmitted
across interstellar space, whether by radio signals or laser
pulses. The meetings provide advance preparation for one of the
most critical decisions that would face humankind if the Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (  news - web sites) (SETI)
should some day succeed: should we reply, and if so, what should
we say?

In Kaiser's view, the structure of terrestrial music might
provide clues to creating interstellar messages that could be
understood by extraterrestrial intelligence. In the process, he
suggests that music may provide a means of communicating
"something of our consciousness that is essentially human,
regardless of the civilization from which it emerges."

Kaiser is building upon an ongoing discussion about whether
music would be understood by extraterrestrials. For example,
astronomer Sebastian von Hoerner argued that extraterrestrials
could even have music similar to Earth's=97so similar that we
shouldn't be surprised to find them using the same musical
scales that we do!

Indeed, ever since the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece, we have
known that there is an innate connection between music and math.
Musical notes can be described in terms of precise frequencies,
and harmonic combinations of these notes occur when their
respective frequencies are in a precise ratio to one another. To
the mathematician, the result is a simple fraction. To the
listener, it is a harmonic sound.

While we cannot be sure that extraterrestrial beings will
necessarily have a sense of hearing, any of the civilizations we
contact in the course of a SETI detection will be savvy about
some of the building blocks of music nevertheless. Concepts of
frequency, amplitude, and duration are as basic to the
construction of radio telescopes as they are to the composition
of a symphony. Even if ET is deaf, the language of music might
provide a means of access to terrestrial aesthetic
sensibilities, through the intermediary of shared science.

Kaiser stresses the importance of avoiding ethnocentric biases
when creating interstellar messages inspired by music. He notes
that those from a Western tradition can easily assume that the
conventions of classical music are equally applicable in non-
Western cultures. And in many cases, they are not. Though
concepts of harmony and melody are seen throughout the world,
the forms they take may be radically different. In designing
interstellar messages based on music, he contends, we should be
careful in deciding which musical concepts to emphasize.

According to Kaiser, music also has the potential to express
something that could give extraterrestrials insights into the
human experience of being embodied: "The very physicality of the
shared human condition lends itself to cyclic sonic concepts
such as drone, repetition, silence: we breath, our hearts beat,
lungs pump and eventually stop." If some day exchange messages
with extraterrestrials who are not flesh-and-blood, but silicon-
based artificial intelligence, it may just be that our music
will provide them with some of their most important insights
into what it means to be human.


Copyright =A9 2002 SPACE.com.

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