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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Synchrony - Culture through Rhythm

Before the Renaissance, God was conceived of as sound or vibration. This is understandable because the rhythm of a people may yet prove to be the most binding of all the forces that hold human beings together. As a matter of fact, I have come to the conclusion that the human species lives in a sea of rhythm, ineffable to some, but quite tangible to others. This explains why some composers really do seem to be able to tap into that sea and express for the people the rhythms that are felt but not yet expressed as music.
Edward T. Hall, The Dance of Life
Right after Clifford Geertz, the anthropologist Edward Hall has had the most influence on me and my understanding of culture - not just cultural differences but culture in its own context.

Some of his most intriguing ideas were revealed by his research in proxemics - how a culture handles space between individuals, and synchrony - how we use space to communicate and sync with each other.  Our bodies move in harmony with others according to codes we learn through our culture.  "Rhythm," said Hall, "is basic to synchrony."

And I can think of no better illustration of synchrony than this remarkable video about the people of Baro produced by Thomas Roebers:

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