TALK'S BODY: A Meditation Between Two Keyboards by David Sudnow

TALK'S BODY: A Meditation Between Two Keyboards

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A clue to understanding this unusual exercise in self-perception is the initial quote from Merleau-Ponty asserting that language and music are akin. We are wrong to feel that the meaning of a sentence is the more intelligible of the two throughout, detachable and self-subsistent--while music is ""dumb,"" its meaning linked to the empirical presence of sounds. M-P says ""language is equally uncommunicative of anything other than itself, that its meaning is inseparable from it."" The author, described as a ""biosociologist"" and Erving Goffman's first doctoral candidate, is apparently also an accomplished jazz pianist. Here he attempts to analyze the creative processes involved in improvising with words and with melodies. They are homologous processes, he feels, involving patterns of anticipation, the physical set and motor acts of the hands, active silent listening, rhythms and cycles of tones or words, and a repertoire of remembrance all assembled and orchestrated by the body. Sudnow describes these events in the creative process through a self-analysis, a perception of how his hands, his ears, and his voice act, for example, when he daydreams at the piano in solitude, when he reads a Stendhal novel, or when he plays ""Moon River"" recalling Audrey Hepburn's performance in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Thus the book is an endorsement for the richness and dynamism of communication--whether with oneself, with others, or with the world--and of the common elements in communication by music or word. All this is presented in a slim impressionistic volume (like Sudnow's 1978 Ways of the Hand), occasionally self-indulgent and out-of-hand, but on the whole opening exciting doors to perception unlikely to be encountered in Psychology 101.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1979
Publisher: Knopf