What do you suppose the odds are that when the aliens find us or we find them, they'll only speak to us through music?
Lots of languages in the world are tonal languages -- languages in which the meaning of a sound made by a speaker changes, sometimes drastically, based on what tone the speaker puts into it.
This is a Thai Tongue Twister:
That is the sound ma repeated four times:
mǎi mài mâi mái/
But when said with the proper tone, it means:
"Does new silk burn?"
In a sense, all languages are musical, but tonal languages are almost explicitly music -- the line between a piece of music and a sentence in a tonal language is blurry at best, because the same sound repeated with different tones means something drastically different.
When I heard about tonal languages, I immediately thought of the scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind that opens this post -- those five notes that anyone who's ever seen the movie (and probably lots of people who can't) can hum to themselves, some of the most famous music that ever graced a film, and it was used to communicate between two vastly different species.
Apparently, John Williams had no real reason for picking those five notes -- he said it was more or less arbitrary from the various combinations he worked out for the movie. And I wasn't able to find anything that talked about how or why Spielberg (who had help on the script) chose to have the aliens use music to communicate with us Earthlings. So I will leave you with this:
And with the thought that maybe we'd better start teaching scientists how to play music, or musicians how to do science.
Or just get some Mandarin Chinese speakers to help us out; Mandarin is a complicated tonal language, too. I've always wanted to learn Chinese, and now this is another reason to do so.
Question number 55 in the Great SEEMINGLY NEVERENDING 100-question Star Wars Blogathon, worth 17 points:
Which Star Wars character had a brief cameo in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and where?
Commenter number 5 gets 10 points, plus the last commenter gets 10 points.
Remember: You can get 1,000 points by mentioning the Yellow Hill fundraiser on your blog; here's the post where I explain that, and you can click here to go directly to the Yellow Hill fundraising page. If you don't want the points, you can in the alternative link to/mention it and get a free book of mine.(Find my books here.) (If you've done this, leave me a link and I'll get you the points.)
Have you written your blogfest entry? The Triweekly Blogfest Challenge -- prize is $10 -- is to post something on the theme of "Han shot first, but Time-Traveling Elvis shot second" by April 29.
Here are the standings.