Rhythms, Musicophilia and Safety

imageWhen I was a kid I used to love the rhythms of riding my bike over sequences of concrete and the enjoyment of rhythms associated with the cycle of the clicking pedals. As kids we got old cigarette boxes made of stiff cardboard and used to peg them to the back wheels for the rhythmic effect.

There is something magical about the way rhythms penetrate us and are embodied through music. These sounds and rhythms are not something that exist ‘out there’ or are processed by cognitive brain capacity but rather, are embodied and felt without ‘thinking’. Embodied thinking is not really ‘thinking’ but rather has more in common with implicit/tacit knowing and feeling through ‘being’. We would do well to know more about how rhythms and musicality affect the way we work (Sacks, O., (2007) Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain.)

In the scientific mindset we tend to deconstruct, compartmentalize and categories things so we can control them. We categorize to: be mentally economic, for pragmatic utility and efficiency, to create a taxonomy of comfort, for communal power, personal gratification and risk regulation. However, when we embody sensations and experiences and they become implicit, such controls weaken. Music and rhythms are not something that is just ‘out there’ to be heard, music and rhythms are ‘in here’ in ‘being’. Music and rhythms are not just processed by the brain but rather penetrate our being and influence our actions. I just love watching my grandkids when music comes on and without instruction or comment their little bodies just begin to bop and bounce, dancing about the lounge room. Music and rhythms don’t have to be analysed or understood in order to be meaningful.

A critical aspect of rhythms and music is their ecological affordance (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264275889_The_use_and_misuse_of_the_concept_of_affordance ). Affordances as ecological influences often override the systems we create and the mechanisms we think we have made that control humans. Embodied enactment needs to be understood outside of the notion of ‘human factors’ that simply views a human as part of a system (eg. Rasmussen etc. https://backend.orbit.dtu.dk/ws/portalfiles/portal/158016663/SAFESCI.PDF ). Isn’t is strange that Safety develops a study called ‘human factors’ that is not about humans but about systems! I often have people from Human factors tell me we have the same worldview, we don’t. SPoR doesn’t view the world through systems.

The systems we develop in safety all have rhythms, cycles and musicality in the way they work, operating at an unconscious level neither seen nor heard. These musicalities (the socialization of music) offer affordances that operate ecologically that are sometimes not in concert with the system itself. It is a strange thing that Safety tends to consider systems as both objective and neutral when in fact the way humans respond to systems are often ecologically determined and shaped by the sonic world. Music operates as a semiotic that penetrates humans through embodiment not cognition by brain or rational processing.

I watching some formworkers when on site last week on an iCue Walk and was mezmerised by how the workers used the rhythms of their swing to keep accurate, they rarely missed a direct hit on the head of the nail because their rhythm helped embody accuracy.

I live in a home of music. We have three pianos (one pianola) and numerous instruments laying around (my wife is a music teacher). Without fail when the grandkids come they all tinker on something, even the littlies who can’t read music understand how to keep rhythm and enjoy tapping away. Musicalitie has its own way of knowing and we encourage that feeling in our kids as much as possible.

What are your rhythms and musicalities at work? Do they support your systems or run across them? Do you observe the musicality of work? Does our fixation with hearing protection sometimes sacrifice times when musicality could assist work? Is your work in safety monodisciplinary or transdisciplinary so that disciplines such as music and geography, history and anthropology are consulted in risk assessment? Are you aware of how ‘interaffectivity’ (Thompson, Risch, Raaven etc) through ecological experiences support or undermine your systems? How is the perception of risk influenced by workplace musicality? Is your sense of ergonomics holistic (transdisciplinary) and are you aware of how ‘intercorproreality’ (Fuchs,, Varela etc) influences decisions in risk?

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

Latest posts by Dr Rob Long (see all)

Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

9 Replies to “Rhythms, Musicophilia and Safety”

  1. Many behaviourists acclaim the extensive work of Watson and Skinner although it fails, somewhat spectacularly, to explain how Beethoven’s late quartets were a conditioned response to his prevailing circumstances, especially during the final decade of a somewhat illustrious career in classical

    1. Unfortunately Bernard, safety will remain closed to the notion of embodiment of the hidden third until someone seeks some dialogue in transdisciplinarity and that would take letting go of the safety worldview. From the last effort at the BoK that seems a few hundred years away.

  2. This is fresh and real Dr Long. As a child I grew up the daughter of a musician… I still remember the smells, feels and elation of my first piano lesson. As an adult I have been profoundly impacted by the benefits of somatic healing modalities such as dance, yoga, singing and mindfulness.
    To take this in a slight tangent- the embodied and inter-relational understanding of the mind ( to paraphrase Dr Dan Siegel’s work) is immensely relevant to our work. We work in a body… and this means that practices such as yoga ( or other means of achieving mindfulness of body) can profoundly inform our awareness of our body/mind, and improve our vagal tone…. with significant benefits. Enough said…I shall climb down from my favourite hobby horse.

    Very interesting work Dr Long. I agree – we need to broaden the understandings of the ways in which these deeper somatic experiences inform our existence… and … indeed… ( to quote the great Van Der Kolk) it would pay for us to start to think about how we integrate the ways in which the body keeps the score…

    1. And an interesting question you pose Dr Long… How do you conceive the relationships of attachment (or intercorporeality and interaffectivity) in the workplace ecosystem of relationships? I am not aware of any specific work which crosses into the occupational environment. Can you enlighten me?

      1. Hi Susan, you may be interested in the idea of holistic ergonomics, simply doesn’t exist in the agenda of safety science. I am interested if you have researched much into the mind-brain dilemma and the nature of embodiment, would give me an idea of where to start.
        The nature of interaffectivity-intercorporeality is present in all occupational environments, its just that those in it don’t know of it, because behaviourism is the dominant materialist paradigm.
        Perhaps start with Fuchs
        I do a lot of this work in holistic ergonomics with clients through the models and semiotics I have developed.

        As yet Safety has shown no interest into this, naturally locked into numerics and metrics by the ideology of zero. You might like to read Claxton, Varela, Damasio, Fuchs, Thompson, Ginot or Raaven on the matter. Because it has no transdisciplinary focus, I’m not sure it knows that embodiment even exists.

  3. Us and Them – Pink Floyd

    Us (us, us, us, us) and them (them, them, them, them)
    And after all we’re only ordinary men
    And you (you, you, you)
    God only knows
    It’s not what we would choose (choose, choose) to do (to do, to do)
    Forward he cried from the rear
    And the front rank died
    And the general sat
    And the lines on the map
    Moved from side to side
    Black (black, black, black)
    And blue (blue, blue)
    And who knows which is which and who is who
    Up (up, up, up, up)
    And down (down, down, down, down)
    And in the end it’s only round ‘n round (round, round, round)
    Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
    The poster bearer cried
    “Listen son”, said the man with the gun
    There’s room for you inside
    “I mean, they’re not gonna kill ya
    So if you give ’em a quick short, sharp, shock
    They won’t do it again. Dig it?
    I mean he get off lightly, ’cause I would’ve given him a thrashing
    I only hit him once! It was only a difference of opinion, but really
    I mean good manners don’t cost nothing do they, eh?”
    Down (down, down, down, down)
    And out (out, out, out, out)
    It can’t be helped that there’s a lot of it about
    With (with, with, with), without
    And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
    Out of the way
    It’s a busy day
    I’ve got things on my mind
    For the want of the price
    Of tea and a slice
    The old man died

    1. Yes Bernard, one can only really answer the binary argument with music, art, film and poetics. I often think the likes of Pink Floyd knew more about risk than zero crusaders.

  4. I can still recollect Churchill’s infamous “We will never surrender” speech and…..”We will fight them on beaches”.

    Meanwhile deep beneath Whitehall he was plotting his escape to Canada.

  5. The same irreverent piss tank claimed it was better to jaw to jaw than war to war yet sanctioned the carpet bombing of Dresden.

    When the rich make war, it’s the poor who die – Jean Paul Sartre

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below