Bach

Reservoir of Beauty inside You

Reservoir of Beauty inside You

"What I find very strange is this. That I think what's magnificent about Bach is that when you listen to this music, and it moves you so much, I mean, it's just a bunch of sound waves crashing into your ear, and you have to contain — you see this emotion bubbling up, you start seeing, like, tearing up, and saying, well, what's going on? These are just sounds crashing into my — what's going on in here?"

~ Bernard Chazelle 

Discovering the Fully Authentic Self in the Endless Wilderness of the Mind

Durs Grünbein explores unpopular answers to popular poetry Q&A questions in “Why Live Without Writing,” Poetry Foundation (February 1, 2010):


Durs Grünbein In the first place, I would say, you write to escape your dread of the sheer present. You fill page after page, as Nietzsche once put it, with angry yearning, not to cozy up to your nearest, but out of love of those farthest away from you, and because the contemporary and the day-to-day will be all the more precious to you when you return to them in a wide arc over unknown terrain. Hence many people’s habit of getting drunk in company: at close quarters only a maximum of inner distance can create moments of ease and relaxation. Hence the silent conversations everyone has with themselves, or locking yourself up in the bathroom to read undisturbed, or the distancing look in the mirror as soon as you know you’re unobserved. Hence too the recurring need of lovers to go to the cinema and stare together at the magic screen, which for a precious hour and a half will make them forget their bodies. In writing, it is one’s innermost being that tries to assert itself, paradoxically, by self-exposure. But publicity, as will soon become apparent, is nothing but a particularly tough protective shield.


And the second reason is a dilemma that concerns each individual psyche. You write, I believe, because you can’t quite shake the suspicion that as a mere contemporary and biological cell mate, hopelessly trammeled up in your own limited lifespan, you would always remain incomplete, half a man, so to speak. Someone must have put you onto the idea that only your most individual expression gives you the least chance of one day being seen in any way other than in your mortal sheath—say, as a kind of ghost. Ever since that tormenting voice (whoever it may be) first challenged you in the name of metaphysics, you’ve been trying by all the laws of glass-blowing, aka poetry, to fix a little window in your own diminishing time, in the hope that tomorrow, or whenever, you may be seen through that little peephole. If you happen to succeed in making your sweetheart, or one or two of your friends, or yourself in your peculiarity visible—the way Vermeer, say, showed his pregnant letter-reader—then it will have been worth the effort. Writing, the voice whispers to you, is the least circumstantial method of breaking out of the given and the immediate. Its only requirement is a mastery of the alphabet, which, thanks to universal education, may generally be relied on, at least hereabouts. You don’t have to be able to draw or set down notes like Bach, and yet, once you’ve passed your spelling exam, you’ve mastered the only method by which consciousness can be recorded.


From which it follows, thirdly and lastly: you write because the brain is an endless wilderness, whose roughest terrain can only be traveled with a pencil. As soon as we are in the innermost dreamy connections, all other art forms are dependent on verbal synthesis. The dream, as you discover when you write, is the fully authentic self. You will never have amounted to more. The world will not appear any more variegated. Which means the notion of what really exists can, with writing, be comfortably extended by a dimension or two.


[Thanks Jeanne!]

Self-Ordering Systems

From Thinking in Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life With Autism by Temple Grandin:

Thinking in Pictures “In high school I came to the conclusion that God was an ordering force that was in everything after Mr. Carlock explained the second law of thermodynamics, the law of physics that states the universe will gradually lose order and have increasing entropy. Entropy is the increase of disorder in a closed thermodynamic system. I found the idea of the universe becoming more and more disordered profoundly disturbing. To visualize how the second law worked, I imagined a model universe consisting of two rooms. This represented a closed thermodynamic system. One room was warm and the other was cold. This represented the state of maximum order. If a small window were opened between the rooms, the air would gradually mix until both rooms were lukewarm. The model was now in a state of maximum disorder, or entropy. The scientist James Clerk Maxwell proposed that order could be restored if a little man at the window opened and closed it to allow warm atoms to go to the one side and cold atoms to go to the other side. The only problem is that an outside energy source is required to operate the window. When I was a college sophomore, I called this ordering force God.

…I hated the second law of thermodynamics because I believed that the universe should be orderly. Over the years I have collected many articles about spontaneous order and pattern formation in nature. Susumu Ohno, a geneticist, has found classical music in slime and mouse genes. He converted the genetic code of four nucleotide bases in our DNA is not random, and when the order is played, it sounds like something by Bach or a Chopin nocturne. Patterns in flowers and leaf growth in plants develop in mathematical sequence of the Fibonacci numbers and the golden mean of the Greeks.

Patterns spontaneously arise in many purely physical systems. Convection patterns in heated fluids sometimes resemble a pattern of cells. Scientists at the University of California have discovered that silver atoms deposited on a platinum surface spontaneously form ordered patterns. The temperature of the platinum determines the type of pattern, and order can be created from random motion. A small change in temperature totally changes the pattern. At one temperature triangles are formed, and at another temperature hexagons form, and further heating of the surface makes the silver atoms revert to triangles in a different orientation. Another interesting finding is that everything in the universe, ranging from amino acids and bacteria to plants and shells, has handedness. The universe is full of self-ordering systems.”

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Genome Music Demo
from Todd Baron

 

More audio clips at GarageBand

Infinite Variety

KURT ANDERSON: When you wake up in the morning and you sit down to practice, as I assume you do, what do you first play?

YO-YO MA: I do something like [plays long, random notes that sound like tuning]. I become friends with the instrument. I try not to tax it too much. It's really like warming up a car or warming up your body. You stretch it. You don't go into a fast run. You don't take it to sixty in three seconds. Because what's funny about an instrument made out of wood, every day the humidity is different. EVery day the temperature is different. And wood, as well as our bodies, are slightly different. I think it's actually making that relationship happen.

KURT: And once you do get it warmed up, what are you inclined to play?

YO-YO: I might play some Bach, which is something I started learning as soon as I started playing. And it's also something that's written for cello alone. This is music that is somewhat meditative...I think of the flow of water. The afternoon light playing on leaves. If you see something that is familiar and yet it's different every day. What's amazing is that with a great friend, you could see them thousands of times and you don't look at them and say, Well today I'm really bored with you. ...Bach was a pictorial composer. One of the things that he coded was infinite variety. Instead of materiality, of saying, this is the same thing, I need a new product, it's something new every time.

From Studio 360 (Oct. 19, 2007)



Yo-Yo performs J.S. Bach's "Suite for Solo Cello
No. 1 in G Major: V. Menuett" in Studio 360.

The Beauty of Building an Image

"I was once told that the age you are is the age you were when you became who you are. Does that mean I am perpetually 11? portmanI’m not sure I want to have that strict an image. In the movie business, there is such a temptation to stick with a particular persona. There is a kind of artistic branding. Sometimes I think I like the Glenn Gould approach. He obsessively played Bach’s Goldberg Variations over and over until he achieved a kind of perfection. Julia Roberts has a Glenn Gould-like career. And then there is Cate Blanchett. She is different all the time. I respect both approaches, but I don’t really want to always play a version of myself. The beauty of building an image is then you have something to break."

-- Natalie Portman, "Screen Goddess," Lynn Hirschberg, New York Times Style Magazine, 12/2/07