Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two Points for writing

Shall I continue this experiment, or leave it be with two points for writing just one day in the month of May? Two measly points - it doesn't seem like much... it seems connected with basketball, but actually any contest can be decided not only by a two point margin, but with one teeny tiny point. While in sports, the point difference is made by the effort and result of that effort by the players. In adjudicated contests, the point is given by the judges - that point could indicate the total of all the judges individual scores, or it could (I suppose) be added on as a flourish, to the competitor who truly seems to be the best of the group.

This could have been the case during the winter Olympics ice skating contest. Johnny Weir, the seemingly queer and definitely flamboyant, feather- and fur-wearing black sheep of the skating world, was up against the manly jet-black haired hetero champ, Evan Lysecek. (It's true that after the Games were over, Evan appeared on Dancing with the Stars, which is not exactly gay, but could be construed as such - despite his tough-guy attitude and Brill-Creemed hair.) Johnny was, by my judgment, the best by far - he may not have the exact angle of skate to ice needed by the rule book, but his grace and bravery and artistry, both in his movements and his costume, were off the charts. However, it's the rule book that rules. And Evan's muscular, fortified jumps took home the gold.

I'm sure I've written about this before, but what if singing competition were judged mechanically? What if the digitally recorded sound could be run through mechanical ears and measured for clarity of tone and perfect pitch? Each chord could be seen as it lined up or didn't, and overtone monitors could capture the wave lengths of each note as they passed through the microphones. In a perfect world, that would leave the human judges to act only as humans - to observe their own emotions as they listen to the music, to feel the hairs raise on their arms or wipe the sweat from their brows. The humans provide feedback about the poetry of the song, the beauty of the lyrics, the passion of the singers. When you watch a performance, you know it's good when you become the singer, you empathically become them as they take you up and down on the ride. You remember your own story, but you are prompted by them to do so. You travel along the notes to the deep part of a story that you know but yet do not know. You hear your story amplified and shared with a crowd. You have an emotion or two as a result. No machine can measure this.

If a machine could measure this, what kind of machine would it be? A computer with millions of blog entries and novels and every story of every kind. The words of the lyrics would be compared with those stories. The lyric words would not need to match, but share certain algorithms with the story words: shared meaning, matching emotional tags. Perhaps "moon" in a lyric would match up with "midnight"; "love"; "space"; maybe even "vampire". In this way you could count how many lyrical words or phrases matched the most stories in the database. This takes care of resonance of theme and sharing of the common thread of the song. But to measure the emotional response we might have to have machines attached to human receptors - our judging panel now is wearing heart monitors and skin patches with wires attached. Do the panel members' hearts beat together? Do the heartbeats all speed up at the same time? Do the brainwaves get in synch? In fact, which portion of the brain is most stimulated by this song? Moving further into science fiction and the possible future, could we manufacture a body part in a laboratory that could capture the feel of music? They are just now starting to grow human organs in a lab. Which organ is this one? A heart, a brain, a skin, an eye, a soul, a memory, a face, love?

It looks like I may achieve my two points, after all. The grand total will be four - two points gained per day of writing. This system must have been designed by a competitive type person - and what reward will there be for attaining these points?

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