Language: You're Born With It

Language is Biological?

One of the greatest difficulties in discussing the relative merits of different types of Music is the "cultural trump card" played by the contemporists, which goes a little like this:

If Music is entirely related to cultural context, and all cultures are equal in value (since 'value' is culturally ascribed), then it follows that all Music is equal in value. Stop making fun of me.

The line of argument is so successful, that polite people have stopped discussing it. There are suggestions, however, that science is capable of identifying links between these slippery "cultural contexts" and our own biology.

This echoes our earlier discussion on "Universal Grammar" (a theory roundly rebuffed by the post-structuralists--see ).

What are the Ramifications?

In the past, it was common and acceptable to put forward propositions regarding the essential meaning of abstract musical features.

Could statements like:

"The groove in that funk song is too suggestive and sexual for use in the church."

(as ridiculous as that may seem) actually have some sort of essential/biological basis? The postmodernists would say "music is neutral! you think that groove is sexual because you're conditioned to think of it that way," but what if some double-blind cross-cultural study proved that this funky bassline is in fact, a "universal grammer" connected to our biology?

What Next?

My opinion is that even if we could "prove," in a scientific/biological sense, that certain types of Music are good/bad (or appropriate/inappropriate), the contemporarists would simply change their argument and retreat to higher ground. Their decisions are not based on reason or argumentation (though they employ it when it suits them), but rather on a desire to "look cool" in a world obsessed with "looking cool."

As long as our culture defines "cool" as being driven by the idioms of popular/rock music, this will not change.