Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Connections-- ancient sounds and language

                        This morning, as I was listening to the birds, I kept thinking about Oliver Sacks' ideas in the previous post --- that we as humans are connected to nature through geometric patterns.  I thought about the bird sounds being patterns, structured through rhythm and repetition, and how they bring me a sense of not just familiarity, but also of completion, of wholeness.

I wonder if the sound patterns, like geometric patterns are inside of us, if the vocalization of the birds is stored as auditory patterns somewhere in our evolutionary DNA, if bird calls are as much a part of who we are as a snowflake.

I was thinking of Clyde Connell's series of Swamp Song drawings in which she recorded the sounds of the bayou by making thousands of spontaneously generated marks, effectively creating her own written language as she listened to birds and other swamp sounds.

Like Connell, I grew up in Lousiana; when I was very young we lived in the southernmost part of the state where the distinction between what is land and what is water is never completely clear.  Here are some of my  sister's old photos from a notebook she made during the time we lived near Bayou Teche.

Bayous, birds, ancient sound, evolution-- the word that comes to mind is...

 noun \ˈa-tə-ˌvi-zəm\

Definition of ATAVISM

a : recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination
b : recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, outlook, approach, or activity atavism

Origin of ATAVISM

French atavisme, from Latin atavus ancestor, from at-(probably akin to atta daddy) + avus grandfather — more atuncle
First Known Use: 1833

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Oliver Sacks and "Hallucinations"

"Do the arabesques and hexagons, in our own minds, built into our brain organization, provide us with the first intimations of formal beauty?"

- Oliver Sacks, from his book "Hallucinations".   The quote references the geometric hallucinations that sometimes precede migraine headaches.  He points to this being a universal phenomenom, occurring in humans of all cultures, ages (Sacks himself experienced them as a three-year-old) and throughout history, one that connects us directly to nature through patterns-- an example being snowflakes.

"In this sense the geometrical hallucinations of migraine allow us to experience in ourselves not only a universal of neural functioning but a universal of nature itself."

- "Migraine-like patterns, indeed, can be found in Islamic art..."

"... in Zapotec architecture..."

"... Aboriginal artists in Australia..."

"..in Acoma pottery..."

"... in Swazi basketry..."