Between Couch and Piano: Psychoanalysis, Music, Art and Neuroscience

By Gilbert J. Rose | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Whence the feelings from art: communication or concordance?

In the Beginning was the Word.


Words?

Not according to contemporary understanding of the development of communication. The first communication system is affective. The second communication system of words and language is based on the earlier one of affects.

At first the infant is “immersed in a word-bath, ” as Spitz (1957) put it, linking words and things into an inextricable network of emotional and perceptual experiences. Phonetic and musical elements of language become imprinted together in a context of meaning-laden intonations. Early on these come to center around the mother.

This was borne out by a series of experiments with newborns. Psycholinguists made use of the fact that a pleasurable event will cause a small baby to increase his sucking activity. Accordingly, a newborn baby is offered a pacifier connected to an electrode that makes it possible to record a graph of the variations in the sucking movements. Outside his field of vision different people speak various languages. It was possible to deduce that a four-day-old baby can distinguish his mother-tongue and, secondly, from among people speaking in this same language, show a “preference” for his mother's voice speaking in her usual tone and even without ever pronouncing his name or using her usual endearments (Eismas, 1971; Piaget and Chomsky, 1979; Mehler and Bertoncini, 1980; quoted by Amati-Mehler et al., 1993:139-140).

By the time the child is learning to walk he/she is also learning to speak. Thus, he/she enters and explores a new world of spatial

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