The Craftsman: Material Consciousness and The Hand

While I have been enjoying reading Sennett as a whole, I was excited to read this section of the book given my own area of interest, but found that in this moment of thinking through, I have what I can best call “material scraps” of thoughts.

Material Scraps:

I couldn’t help but think about this Gorillaz song (the track layers masterful hip hop beats with audio of what sounds like someone practicing playing the violin – in the process of learning) in reading Richard Sennett’s chapter on “The Hand”. Sennett describes the Suzuki Method for teaching children to play music – habit as ingrained accuracy (and in the method, applying forms to the children’s fingers in order to get the feel of playing):

“What exactly did I do? How can I do it again? Instead of the fingertip acting as a mere servant, this kind of touching moves backward from sensation to procedure. The principle here is reasoning backward from consequence to cause” (157).

Left Hand Suzuki Method Lyrics

“The most important thing, is listening the recording of the music.
It makes them get um musical sense – and, uh – this is the point of the… fast progress!

“And also, everyday, every lesson
We have to make sure
They’re not lying about tunization!”

In recognizing the name Suzuki, I looked up Shin’ichi Suzuki and the Suzuki method and was surprised at the parallels between the philosophy of the method and the description of the guild apprenticeships Sennett describes in “The Workshop”.

In reading, I found myself trying to think of all the metaphors we use that focus on the hands as a means of making meaning. Hands allow us to learn “hands on”, to “get a grip”, to “get a feel” of things we’re doing. These metaphors then broadened to think of procedural metaphors for learning/obtaining knowledge or a skill – “we learn by doing”. These metaphors show a connection between head and hand, which is then absent in metaphors of rote learning, repetition, and mechanization in learning. I wonder if these were only possible after process and procedure changed with Fordist means of production that distanced/expanded the relationship between hand and head as the process of making something in total.

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