I mean, I knew I knew what it was but
the melody’s recognizable but the tempo’s
sped up. Speeded. Some are, yeah, but
some are slowed way down. When I first
heard it I thought it was Bach. He makes
everything sound like Bach but it wasn’t.
Yeah, but the melodies, it’s like he’s
seeing the score three-dimensionally. It’s
like one of those exploded diagrams where
you see it taken apart, a carburetor or
whatever, to see how it goes back together.
But you were saying about the blessing,
the one on sukkot. You shake the lulav,
bound palm branches, fronds, like a broom,
once in each direction, north, south, east,
up, down I mean, I mean, you know, you
recite the bracha, the prayer, but broken up.
You have to break the rhythm of the waving
motion away from the words so you don’t
shake it when you say God’s name. But you’re
not even supposed to say it and you just said it.
That’s only the name of the name. Not the
same. Anyway, you were saying you say
the bracha on a sort of legato as you bring
the lulav to the next position. Like the invocation
Santeros say to open the gates to Elegguá. Or
no, to ask him to open them for you. You mean
for you. He guards doorways and crossroads,
where possibility begins. Legba in Vodou.
Protects children too. But aren’t you a Jew?
You look familiar. Like we’ve met somewhere
before. Between each compass point or tone’s
another one and so on. It’s where time started or
starts all the time. I don’t follow. It’s like you’re
trying to halve it both ways. I think you mean have.
Whatev. I think you know exactly what I mean.
Yeah so anyway she pulls me back inside and pulls this Dolce & Gabbana,
she reaches down into this pile and pulls out this little Dolce & Gabbana top
from way down inside the middle of this, this pile. Like up to the ceiling, OK?
And it fit me perfectly. I mean, I go it’s not going to fit me, and she goes it’s going to fit you perfectly.
I told her I’m too big up here, believe me, I know, but she did, I mean it did,
it fit me fucking perfectly. You have to realize it was like a warehouse in there
but like after a tornado or something, and we were still on the street
and she goes, oh, I have a little Dolce & Gabbana top it’s going to fit you perfectly,
and then we get up there and she just reaches into this pile like she knows exactly where
the fuck it is.
She did know. What? She knew exactly where it was. Yeah, and it fit me perfectly.
Like that was why she kept it all those years. Like somehow she knew.
It’s like this letter I can’t get rid of. That’s not the same thing. I know but
I can’t get rid of this letter a friend of mine wrote me like ten years ago.
It fell out of a book he gave me. Actually more than ten. I don’t even care
about the book but he gave it to me so I have to keep the letter with it.
You think you have to. Yeah, I mean feel like I do. Like it’s part of your
friendship with him. Or maybe what’s in it. What?
in the letter, whatever’s in it, you have to take all of it
into you before you can let go of it, into your whole
being, your whole being, you know. Like integrate it, I mean.
But you have to, to already know, yeah, or to go, to just go, yeah,
this is part of me, but not just saying it, right? It’s like I brought my mother’s things
back this summer. I never do things like that. Stuff is just stuff, come on, man.
But I brought her stuff back. It’s the same thing. Well, but it’s
the same thing. And they’re all in our house here now,
my mother’s and my father’s stuff. But what do I do with it all now,
what do I do with them now, with the things, now that I have them here?
They’re like another life. It’s like having another life inside my life here now.
Bengalese finch singing from
its song-isolation box in our
Bay Area lab. But from would
mean to, and this isn’t that. What
matters to us is production and learning.
Colleagues in the birdsong field likewise
wait for zebra finch song crystallization
a continent away. Needless
to say we more easily see
in the head-fixed sleeping bird
than in the freely behaving bird
how sleep bursts of basal ganglia
activity resemble song bursts of
same; the bird brain’s in rehearsal.
The high vocal center or HVC,
formerly the so-called song center,
suggests we still rely on
a music-box-like conception
of the underlying neural mechanism
of the structure of song. We’re talking
eight thousand nerve cells
sending signals downstream to
seven or eight muscles making up
the vocal mechanism responsible for
the tweets and chirps and warbles
and trills and, well, all in all,
song, which we distinguish from
everything else, mere calls.
So we insert a device
adapted from a device
you plug into your car’s
cigarette lighter to keep
a Coca-Cola on a
long drive cold
into the air sacs inside
the zebra finch skull.
Bilateral cooling causes
uniform slowing of song.
Having localized the dynamics
we note distinct neural substrates
for sequence and pitch. So
from highly variable babble
through the intermediate plastic song
and on to stereotippy repeatability
the juvenile eventually matches its output
via basal ganglia feedback to what
we take to be a stored template to
clock-like patterns of adult songbird
sound. Listen and learn:
the template holds a stable
of what the bird has heard
in its tutor’s song, which is
what its own production
is based on. A recovery process
for error correction increases
accuracy of matches, as in this don’t
sound right: adjust accordingly.
Basal ganglia reward circuits guide vocal
play toward recognizable sequence of sound,
highly structured sequences of sound. Meanwhile
the cortical loop allows each species-specific
characteristical song to unfold until it’s complete.
Social context for variability awaits further study.
–from talks by Michael Fee of MIT
and Michael Brainard of UC;
mistakes are my responsibility.