Tag Archives: music & language

The Unanswered Question

Can you recall a sea-change in your thinking taking place after a book, documentary, film, argument talk, lecture? I’ve written here before on Leonard Bernstein’s Norton Lectures, on music and linguistics, The Unanswered Question, and the effect they had on my musical thinking. All six lectures are now on YouTube.

One thing I learned much later was that Bernstein had memorised the scripts! If you have several hours to spare, not necessarily all in the same day, then I can’t recommend them highly enough:

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Forensic Linguistics

Interested in language? Shouldn’t every teacher be? Got a spare 8 minutes? Ever wondered what Forensic Linguistics is all about? You can hear a very interesting interview from Radio 4’s Word of Mouth about how language (including texting style) can betray incongruities with the claimed age, gender, social class & native language of the user and how evidence for real life cases (much more serious than copying homework) was gathered. Dr. Tim Grant, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Linguistics at Aston University explains how here (until Tue 13th at 16:00).

Very similar skills and processes are used to determine the composer of an unidentified instrumental piece of music. Details of instrumentation, national style, harmonic & rhythmic language, division of octave etc. are often unconsciously processed, allowing the listener to pin down the historical period, country of origin and, in many cases, the individual musical signature(s).