Polyphonic Minds: Music of the Hemispheres

Polyphonic Minds: Music of the Hemispheres

by Peter Pesic

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Overview

An exploration of polyphony and the perspective it offers on our own polyphonic brains.

Polyphony—the interweaving of simultaneous sounds—is a crucial aspect of music that has deep implications for how we understand the mind. In Polyphonic Minds , Peter Pesic examines the history and significance of “polyphonicity”—of “many-voicedness”—in human experience. Pesic presents the emergence of Western polyphony, its flowering, its horizons, and the perspective it offers on our own polyphonic brains.

When we listen to polyphonic music, how is it that we can hear several different things at once? How does a single mind experience those things as a unity (a motet, a fugue) rather than an incoherent jumble? Pesic argues that polyphony raises fundamental issues for philosophy, theology, literature, psychology, and neuroscience—all searching for the apparent unity of consciousness in the midst of multiple simultaneous experiences.

After tracing the development of polyphony in Western music from ninth-century church music through the experimental compositions of Glenn Gould and John Cage, Pesic considers the analogous activity within the brain, the polyphonic “music of the hemispheres” that shapes brain states from sleep to awakening. He discusses how neuroscientists draw on concepts from polyphony to describe the “neural orchestra” of the brain. Pesic's story begins with ancient conceptions of God's mind and ends with the polyphonic personhood of the human brain and body. An enhanced e-book edition allows the sound examples to be played by a touch.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262036917
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 10/27/2017
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Peter Pesic, writer, pianist, and scholar, is Director of the Science Institute and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College, Santa Fe. He is the author of Abel's Proof: An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability; Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature ; Sky in a Bottle ; and Music and the Making of Modern Science, all published by the MIT Press.

Table of Contents

Prelude 1

I Polyphony Emergent 13

1 Global Contexts and Ancient Origins 15

2 Dispassion and Deification 31

3 The Music of the Blessed 47

4 Oresme and the "New Song" 67

5 Polyphonic Controversies 85

II Polyphony Triumphant 99

6 E pluribus unum 101

7 Polyphony and Power 119

8 Controlling Dissonance 131

9 Contrapuntal Science and Art 149

10 In Bach's Hands 163

III Polyphonic Horizons 181

11 Polyphony Extended 183

12 Contrapuntal Radio and Polyphonic Fields 209

IV Polyphonic Brains

13 Polyphonic Selves 229

14 Tuning the Brain 245

15 Music of the Hemispheres 259

Postlude 273

Notes 277

References 299

Illustration Credits 317

Acknowledgments 319

Index 321

What People are Saying About This

David Sulzer

Fascinating and opinionated, Peter Pesic's new book will change your concepts of how our species creates music and perceives it.

From the Publisher

A brilliantly original and courageous book. Pesic's broadly interdisciplinary grounding is precisely the type of foundation upon which today's music history should be built.

Craig Wright , Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music, Yale University

Fascinating and opinionated, Peter Pesic's new book will change your concepts of how our species creates music and perceives it.

David Sulzer , a. k. a. Dave Soldier, Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, Pharmacology, and Sound Arts, Columbia University

Endorsement

Fascinating and opinionated, Peter Pesic's new book will change your concepts of how our species creates music and perceives it.

David Sulzer, a.k.a. Dave Soldier, Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, Pharmacology, and Sound Arts, Columbia University

Craig Wright

A brilliantly original and courageous book. Pesic's broadly interdisciplinary grounding is precisely the type of foundation upon which today's music history should be built.

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