Communication #2: Stories & Music
Okay, this wasn’t originally planned for the next post. In fact, this wasn’t originally planned to be a post at all. But my dad listens to CBC classics, and something that was said on the program early this afternoon caught my attention. Combined with the whole idea of AAC, not just speech, as valid means of communication, I started thinking about this post.
Stories are a very ancient means of communication. They have been used for the three great ‘E’s – to explain, to educate, and to entertain.
To Explain: What are myths and legends, but attempts to explain things about the natural world that our ancestors didn’t understand? Thunder and lightning? Of course, it has to be the gods making war. Eclipses? Dragons eating the sun. Images in the stars? The gods must have put them there. And so on, and so forth. Fearing what we don’t understand, humans made up stories to provide explanations for what they didn’t have the knowledge to explain in other ways.
To Educate: Most people in the Western World have heard of Aesop’s Fables – stories created by the Roman Aesop with morals embedded in them, to help children learn “proper morality” (put in quotes, because what is proper morality does vary from culture to culture, although some things – such as murder is bad – are fairly universal). I can remember sitting with my younger niece about a year and a half ago, or so, as she went through an iPad app that had a number of Aesop’s Fables – or stories in that format, at least – on them, learning them. She particularly liked the story of the fox and the crane: the fox invited the crane over for dinner, and had dinner served in low bowls. The fox had no trouble eating that meal, but the crane, with its long beak, was unable to drink from the bowl. In response, the crane invited the fox over for dinner the next day, and served the meal in tall, thin glasses – the fox was unable to get much of the meal from them, because his muzzle was too large to fit in the glass and his tongue was too short to reach very far, but they were just right for the crane. Moral of the story: Treat others as you would wish to be treated. Remember that others may have different abilities and weaknesses than you. (Rather appropriate for this sort of discussion, don’t you think?)
To Entertain: Well, I don’t know that anyone really needs an explanation for this. Stories are meant to provide the reader / listener with entertainment and enjoyment – that’s a basic element of a story. After all, the previous two reasons for stories don’t work if the reader / listener won’t pay attention to the story, and the best way to encourage them to pay attention is to make the story entertaining.
So, what does this all have to do with methods of communication (the theme of my “Communication” posts) and listening to CBC Classics radio? It’s actually amazingly simple.
Music is often a form of telling stories. And not just ballads and story-songs, but classical music itself. Music is one of the classical (pun not intended) ways of communicating not just emotion, but stories, and even images, for some people. I dare anyone to listen to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and – even if they don’t know the story behind the music – have at least a vague idea of what is going on in the piece. (Not that many people past adolescence in the Western World wouldn’t know the story, I suspect – not with Disney’s iconic image of Mickey as the hapless sorcerer’s apprentice in question!) Or Wagner’s famous “Ride of the Valkyries”. You don’t need to have seen the movie Apocalypse Now (gods, I hated that movie – we had to watch it for English, the year we did Heart of Darkness – the novel it was based on – but I love the music), or know Wagner’s Ring Cycle to get some idea of what the music is about.
Or watch figure-skating one evening. Short programs, long programs – it’s not just the technical aspects of the figure-skating that count. It’s the creativity, the story that they tell with the music and their movements. There’s a reason there are two sets of scores for the figure-skating competitions.
And people have accepted music as a means of communication and storytelling for centuries, if not millennia. Music, on its own, with no words.
Doesn’t that mean that people should accept that verbalized language is not the only valid means of communication?
Just some thoughts,