Tactile Intelligence

Day 220 Week 32 Q3 Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Did you ever watch someone’s hands who was extremely skilled at something? Like playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting, throwing clay to make pottery, or watching a craftsman using tools?  When you do, you see an incredible amount of tactile intelligence operating with a combination of muscle memory, unconscious knowledge about how to do things, and of course, some executive guidance from a brain. But there is much more to this dance than the brain can understand or manage in real-time. And this can be quite wonderful once the behavior transcends the linear, rational trying to explain-things mode of mind.

When you shoot a video of someones intelligent hands doing something, they are very surprised to see what their hands are doing. Their hands often seem to have a mind of their own, exhibiting tactile intelligence. You can even see this when some people try to park a car ten times while others simply glide in with a single smooth movement. It is a good thing our bodies, in general, and hands, in particular, are very smart, for we could never track and manage all of the multitudes of operations required to make things happen. Anyone who has ever tried to program a robotic arm determines it is easier to directly guide the arm with your arm than to determine exactly what vector coordinates should be transmitted. In fact this is why drag and drop works a lot better for many operations than alphanumeric mathematical directions.

The place where I am most often delighted and amazed by this tactile intelligence is when picking up a new or different instrument. My hands seem to go off on a trip to figure out how to play it. And different instruments somehow call forth different melodies, rhythms and harmonies. I think if you listen closely enough, they tell you what to play next in a very specific note-by-note manner. Ifs you are a composer, you are likely to be a multi-instrumentalist for the same reason painters like to have a lot of colors.    

Now that the computer and the piano keyboard have gotten married or are at least in a profoundly deep long-term relationship, we have literally an unlimited number of different sounds instantly available in some cases.  If you are willing to wait a few seconds to download and install new sounds, you can access thousands of different instrumental sounds. And seeing what your tactile intelligence does with them is very exciting, for infinite snippets of musical ideas rain forth.

If desired, the performer can become an instrument maker, recording engineer, producer and all-round sonic storyteller. And much of this story is told by tactile intelligence far more quickly and effortlessly than my brain can wrap itself around. It feels good to let your tactile intelligence drive for a while. You can end up in new neighborhoods that you never knew existed, in some cases right around the corner from you live.