Ep7. Can there be non-auditory music?
What is meant by non-auditory music
Non-auditory music is music capable of being experienced through a non-auditory sensory organ not designed to perceive sounds. Auditory music, by contrast, is music caused by sounds through a gas that animal's ears are stimulated by resulting in auditory phenomenological sound experiences of that particular modality type.
What would non-auditory music be like?
Non-auditory music would be music not produced by any sounds yet still capable of being experienced by self-conscious beings who are persons often by means other than using sensory organs designed to sense information contained in the environment other than sounds.
What other senses could possibly experience music besides hearing?
Of course, ears by themselves do not experience sounds. Ears are only an organ for sensing sound pressure waves and then transforming that auditory information using neurology and a brain and nervous system into sensations that an organism can utilize to acquire knowledge and information about the environment that organism finds itself within.
Hence, it is the organism's sensory organs in cooperation with the brain manufacturing sensory experiences of a particular modality type that results in what humans call hearing and sounds.
Suppose that whenever there are particular patterns of light waves the Martian eye perceives these and transforms them into auditory-like sensory experiences. If this happens, then the Martians can in effect hear light patterns. If these light patterns being heard take on the form of sensory experiences that the Martians can recognize and be aware of the rhythm, harmony, and melody of these light patterns, then the Martians can be seeing (hearing) music.
Is this really possible?
We have every reason to believe the above non-auditory music situation is indeed possible and not just possible, but actually occurs and not just to our hypothetical Martians, but to actual human beings here on Earth. The relevant phenomena under question is known as synesthesia. Synesthesia results from the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.
The above graphics display how a person with color-graphemic synesthesia might automatically experience entirely and only black letters and numbers (as represented by image on left) as having a perceived specific and consistent color (as displayed in the image on right of the black only letters on the left) with which they display phenomenologically to the synesthete. This color experience occurs, for example, when the synesthete reads black print on white paper, the letters and numbers are experienced as specifically and consistently the same colors automatically generated by the sensory system connected to individual letter and number types. To be clear, for examples, the arabic font for the number one, 1, when in black font on white paper can be consistently perceived by a synesthete as teal colored, while the letter capital N is perceived as dark blue colored (as in the image displayed above on right).
Synesthesia occurs as a neurological event of stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway modality type causing automatic and involuntary experiences in a second sensory and/or cognitive modality pathway. When this occurs to a synesthete it could be possible that by being visually stimulated only by light a synesthete has a phenomenological auditory experience.
Authors at Wikipedia claim that “Synesthetic associations can occur in any combination and any number of senses or cognitive pathways .”
That this kind of cross modality sensory experiences can occur should not be a surprise. The great Canadian neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield, discovered that some of his patients during their brain surgery upon electrical stimulation by Penfield using a probe on different parts of their brain experienced music. When Penfield ceased the stimulation the patient reported the music stopping as well. Since electrical neural stimulation can cause phenomenological experiences in patients without any direct sound stimulation of the ears, it is not a surprise that some individuals could have an input neural stimulus that ends up being a stimulant to a non-standard part of the brain that produces alternate sensory qualia than that typically produced. Hence it should be possible to hear music as the result of light stimulations to the eye.
CONCLUSION: Therefore, non-auditory music can exist. Notice that the very cases of patients upon neuro-electrical stimulation hearing what they believe is an external source of music proves that people can experience music without any sound stimulation from the ears. Therefore, music exists that has the same phenomenal character whether it is caused by sound pressure waves or by neural-electrical stimulation.
- "Thus, the sensory modalities will be visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic, etc." (bold not in original) as found at Wikipedia: Modality (semiotics), under heading "Discussion of sign-type," first paragraph.
- In addition to the phenomena of synesthesia discussed in the text other brain phenomena exhibit these 'crossover' effects. One of these phenomena is the McGurk effect that can occur when simultaneously received visual and auditory perceptual information is contradictory. The effect produces genuinely 'new' phenomenology not identical to either modality's input. For example, if a perceiver is auditorily fed with the phoneme "ba" yet visually sees someone's lips pronouncing the phoneme "ga," then the perceiver actually hears the phoneme "da." One gets the impression after reading about the McGurk effect at Wikipedia: Multisensory integration that the ambiguous information supplied auditorily upon hearing "ba" that can be misheard with "da" together with the ambiguous visual information of seeing "ga" that can be confused with "da" the brain resolves the ambiguity in favor of the phoneme "da" which was ambiguously possibly present during both modality presentations. “Hence, when ba (voice) and ga (lips) are processed together, the visual modality sees ga or da, and the auditory modality hears ba or da, combining to form the (auditory) percept da." Wikipedia: McGurk effect concludes that: “The brain is often unaware of the separate sensory contributions of what it perceives. Therefore, when it comes to recognizing speech the brain cannot differentiate whether it is seeing or hearing the incoming information.” Quotation from Wikipedia: McGurk effect, second paragraph underneath "Background."
- Wikipedia: Synesthesia, under heading "Overview," first paragraph, last sentence.