Conversational polyrhythms, Uniting distinct psychological dispositions by means of polyrhythmic dialogue


We do not use language, we are language.                      


From the very start

From the early onset, a child develops person-orientated verbal abilities. Mother has her motherly way of speaking to her child and unconsciously rewards the child for the specific responses to her liking. Father does the same and thus the infant learns two “languages” soon to be followed by a third one, the specific way to communicate when the three of them are together.

We all experienced these person-specific dialogues. In a family of four, we encounter ten different combinations in which we finetune our choice of words, our syntax, and even the tone and rhythm of our voice to be in perfect harmony with our parents and siblings in every specific configuration. Our most complex creation is our conversational style while the whole family is together, all relations are respected because elements of the limited personal ways to interact are interwoven thus enriching the general conversation.


Music to our ears

The term polyrhythm is derived from music theory referring to the simultaneous combination of contrasting rhythms. The term is chosen in this context for its wide cultural application and our inborn appreciation of polyrhythmic music hence projecting a sensory path towards what we are aiming to explain. The chemical term polyvalent is the next best candidate to imagine the kind of dialogue we would like to propose; being able to form multiple bonds like a multivalent atom can make several chemical combinations.


Looking for new composers

In the current pandemic, we experience the frustration that arises when the language is neither polyrhythmic nor polyvalent. There is a striking absence of anyone who can embrace simultaneously within speech:  the numerous families confined in a small apartment, the sciëntist developing a vaccine, the ic-nurse surroundings by dying patients, the politician looking at statistics, the young and the old, the sick and the healthy…

Another widely published report of a lack of polyrhythmic conversation is encountered in US politics. Several well-known tunes are heard ad infinitum. Rep, Dem, Trump, Conspiracy, but no band on the horizon that can make music adopting these popular tunes simultaneously.


Estranged from ourselves

Why do we stop synthesizing new information in our social conversation at a certain point? It seems we are all like the young lawyer in his new classy firm, all adapted, and tip-top, who gets his “not just another day at the office” when his rural parents decide on a surprise visit, leading to years of collegial teasing about the endless amount of awkward details of this encounter. 

If we honor the quotation we accept that the language we use is us. No one is an island, the art of developing polyrhythms is an exact reflection of how large our family is. Learning to Include the tonality of others is a way of personal growth.



Citation: Rodolfo Alonso: El silencio y la poesia, interview met Pablo Montanero, 2005

Painting: Georgette at the piano. Artist: Rene Magritte – 1896 – 1967 Belgium, Style: Cubism – Early Years, Media: Oil on Canvas, Location: Brachot Gallery, Brussels.