Why Do We Like Certain Tunes or Understand Certain Sentences?

Contrast two answers to the question, Why do we like certain tunes?

Because they have certain structural features.
Because they resemble other tunes we like.


The first answer has to do with the laws and rules that make tunes pleasant. In language, we know some laws for sentences; that is, we know the forms sentences must have to be syntactically acceptable, if not the things they must have to make them sensible or even pleasant to the ear. As to melody, it seems that we only know some features that can help–but we know of no absolutely essential features. I do not expect much more to come of a search for a compact set of rules for musical phrases. (The point is not so much about what we mean by 'rule', as about how large is the body of knowledge involved.)

The second answer has to do with significance outside the tune itself, in the same way that asking "Which sentences are meaningful?" takes us outside shared linguistic practice and forces us to look upon each person's private tangled webs of thought. Those private webs feed upon themselves, as in all spheres involving preference: we tend to like things that remind us of the other things we like. For example, some of us like music that resembles the songs, carols, rhymes, and hymns we liked in childhood. All this begs this question: If we like new tunes that are similar to those we already like, where does our liking for music start?


Folksonomies: semantics understanding comprehension

/art and entertainment/music/music genres/easy listening (0.659202)
/art and entertainment/music (0.437024)
/law, govt and politics (0.434185)

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Answer (0.931959): dbpedia | freebase
Sentence (0.914868): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Question (0.892418): dbpedia | freebase
Epistemology (0.871905): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Grammar (0.846924): dbpedia | freebase
Music (0.727180): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Melody (0.716027): dbpedia | freebase
Linguistics (0.710433): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Music, Mind, and Meaning
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Minsky, Marvin (Fall 1981), Music, Mind, and Meaning, Computer Music Journal, Fall 1981, Vol. 5, Number 3, Retrieved on 2015-05-23
  • Source Material [web.media.mit.edu]
  • Folksonomies: education meaning music