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Not just signal efficiency - The Ex-Communicator

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September 22nd, 2012


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02:56 am - Not just signal efficiency
In Seven Types of Ambiguity William Empson unpacks multiple meanings from eight words of Macbeth: 'The crow makes wing to the rooky wood'. In addition to the overt meaning 'I see a bird going from a to b' he says, I think rightly, that the words suggest something like

- Night is falling
- Dark things are coming together into a collective darkness
- A solitary carrion-eating thing is moving towards a community
- A lone thing is moved to lose its individuation
- Chickens are coming home to roost
- The end of my story is coming, and it isn't going to be good

I am obviously not doing his theory justice, but I think each one of those meanings is conveyed by the words. And the meanings support each other because they are different but similar. The sounds - or words on the screen - carry much more information than they normally do.

Similarly in Breaking Bad scenes are saturated so that they carry extra information. I was thinking of two 'making meth' montages in recent episodes. One is accompanied by the Monkees, which IMO carried a subtext about commercial imitation (Monkees -> Beatles) another to 'Crystal Blue Persuasion' by Tommy James and the Shondells, which carried the meta-message that it is the perfect track, after five seasons of montages. And colour in general is information-carrying in Breaking Bad, so every scene has a colour-meaning alongside the overt meaning.

But I think that's a technical issue, and you don't get the effect by simply unpacking the meaning, like it was a compression format. What I mean is that it is not a quantitative difference from normal telly or writing. It's not 'we managed to increase the carrying capacity of the signal'. And unzipping the data packet is not the - I was going to say not the right thing. It is the right thing. But mostly you do it intuitively, and non-verbally. It happens straight into your brain, without touching the sides.

In any case the effect is not quantitative. Somehow it is qualitative. I think because you get multiple meanings coming into your brain at the same time, it forces your brain to operate with multiple processes at once, which all reinforce each other. So it gives you a heightened feeling. Like a joke does, or suddenly understanding a theory. It's exhilarating.

ETA and people who say 'you think too much' or 'you are reading too much into it' are either missing out, or more likely I think they are getting the effect of the extra signal, and they like it, but it's not registering consciously. And I totally accept that as a valid response, because that's how I respond to music, compared to someone like H who understands the signal.

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Comments:


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From:happytune
Date:September 22nd, 2012 07:27 am (UTC)
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I love this. I'm sure there's work going on at UCL in conjunction with the Royal College of Music looking at it too. It reminds me of the opening of chapter 5 of Howard's End, where a number of characters are at a performance of Beethoven's Fifth. The description of their engagements with the music is a great example of what you describe here.
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From:communicator
Date:September 22nd, 2012 02:50 pm (UTC)
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Probably Forster was someone who could understand both music and words: 'The kingdom of music is not the kingdom of this world; it will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected'
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From:tehomet
Date:September 22nd, 2012 09:58 am (UTC)
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In any case the effect is not quantitative. Somehow it is qualitative. I think because you get multiple meanings coming into your brain at the same time, it forces your brain to operate with multiple processes at once, which all reinforce each other. So it gives you a heightened feeling. Like a joke does, or suddenly understanding a theory. It's exhilarating.

Yes! Love this.
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From:communicator
Date:September 22nd, 2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
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I think I get into a loopy state sometimes in the middle of the night and I have to type it out of me :-)
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From:archbishopm
Date:September 22nd, 2012 12:32 pm (UTC)
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people who say 'you think too much' or 'you are reading too much into it'

...piss me off. They don't want to hear how I've found the answer to the meaning of life encoded in the ingredients list on this cereal box they can just nod politely and think dirty thoughts like I do* when I'm pretending to listen to them. :-D

*except for the nodding politely part
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From:communicator
Date:September 22nd, 2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
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The people who most often tell me I think too much are New Agers and Doorstep Evangelists. Well, until I stopped talking to them altogether.
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From:archbishopm
Date:September 23rd, 2012 07:25 am (UTC)
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So, people whose belief systems are strongly predicated upon not thinking too much.

I remember during my one horrible mandatory English class in university opting to dissect and analyze the horrible politically correct Canadian unrhymey default poem we were offered rather than choose a poem that didn't suck, for fear understanding would kill the frog poem...turned out it doesn't, at least for me, but eh, point is entire belief system > poem so I can understand where they are coming from. Won't shut me up though, up to the believers to flee :-p.

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