Music = dye

I’ve been listening to more Indian classical music lately, so I was reading about ragas, these traditional musical forms that guide how you play and develop a piece. Instructions for creating a mood, if I can semi-ignorantly generalize. And take a look at the etymology…

Raga. 1788, from Sanskrit raga-s “harmony, melody, mode in music,” literally “color, mood,” related to rajyati “it is dyed.”

I like this idea of music as a “dye” for the mind.

The combinatorial agility of words, the exponential generation of meaning once they’re allowed to go to bed together, allows the writer to surprise himself, makes art possible, reveals how much of Being we haven’t yet encountered.

Donald Barthelme, quoted in Toward a Theory of Surprise.

To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed. …. The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. …. The picture tells you how to arrange the words and the arrangement of the words tells you, or tells me, what’s going on in the picture.

Just learned a new word: “Walla is a sound effect imitating the murmur of a crowd in the background.”

The Party of the First Part: The Curious World of Legalese (review: 3/5)

Each chapter of The Party of the First Part: The Curious World of Legalese takes on a broad topic, like criminal law, tort, money, or sex. Author Adam Freedman brings up the main vocabulary (habeas corpus, misdemeanor, legal tender) and some of the more obscure ideas (per stirpes, res ipsa loquitur), exploring their roots along the way, and most importantly, grappling with why in the world we accept such tortured language.

The legal system and lawyers are convenient punching bags (I would be more surprised if Freedman had a difficulty finding things to puzzle over), but I didn’t expect the book to be quite so funny. He often seems like a stand-up comic: introduction, development, punchline. It seems like every paragraph had some bit of goofiness. Plenty of the jokes were just corny, but much of it was good. I also like that Freedman keeps a few running gags across sections and chapters of the book, like the recurring “four-hour erections” bit from an early chapter on legal disclaimers.

I don’t expect to buy it or ever read it again, but it was perfect for a few mornings on the train to work. You can read an excerpt from the first chapter to get a feel for it, or take a look at Freedman’s blog of the same title, The Party of the First Part.