Symmetry, Harmony and Passion

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2008 at 1:28 pm


This post is dedicated to Bach. Creations of Bach, to me epitomises the need for structure and also the flexibility and vitality only a well thought of structure will be able to provide. Bach and the patterns he put forward was responsible for shattering many of my immature, premature and abrupt notions. For starters, I curse myself of not getting formal training in western classical music.

My favourite Bach moment is Aria da Capo from Goldberg Variations, especially its first section . Each note so beautiful in itself. Their connection to each other form a precious bead of music, a unique stream of human emotions and extreme beauty.

I am linking below a youtube video of the performance of Goldberg Variations 26-30 and Aria da Capo by Glenn Gould. Aria da Capo starts from timeline 5:48.

The music evokes a sense of beauty in me and many a times are transcendent in nature. But at the same time, there is a painful awareness that I missing out in another realm of understanding and appreciation.

For example, there is an entire different (dare I say, richer) form of mysticism and a sense of wonder that are accessible for a student of mathematics (like me) attached to the story of creation starting from the big bang, the forming of galaxies, solar system and the planets, the evolution of life in a tiny little planet called earth, and finally ending unfinished at a current picture of the modern 21st century world we see around and understand. The understanding of the mathematics, both in its abstract form and its details about the governess of the physical phenomena in this creation story evokes a new sense of beauty. My understanding and appreciation is limited and my mental structures incomplete, but present and unbounded.

However, this kind of representational understanding of music is still inaccessible to me, hopefully not for long. I know there is a beauty out there, which I am unable to see so far, mainly due to shortcomings in me. And it is this presence; rather the belief in the presence of structure and its subsequent quest that drives me forward.

Now, let me come to the second lesson of vitality and flexibility a `good’ structure provide. I am linking below three different interpretations of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BMV 565).

Leopold Stokowski’s interpretation. Conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch

Hans-Andre Stramm’s interpretation

Sir Henry Wood’s interpretation. Conducted by Andrew Davis

Each one of the interpretations is special in its own way. Though their perspectives ever so slightly perturbed, each one of them is highly genuine and relevant. Though the score they follow is the same (and brilliant), the arrangement is unique, the texture is different, tone is different and their contribution massive. It is a testimony towards Bach’s and his interpretators’ genius. A good structure always provide room for innovation and creation. A good creator always use existing and high quality structures.

One of the lessons, I learned the hard way is the essence of making genuine contribution is not to start from scratch, but to build upon the structures build up by the giants in the past, be it science, art or social science.

Let me end the post by throwing in some of my personal, but derived philosophy and beliefs. Included in all of us is a fundamental instinct of making a quest towards symmetry and harmony. Our quest takes the form of pattern seeking (both conscious and unconscious). When we strike upon a pattern of symmetry and harmony (be it in love, art or science) we find happiness. Nature has innate symmetry and structure, many of which are yet to discovered. Hence our lives are worth living a million times and the quest highly rewarding.

Let me leave you with a picture of E8 group and a TED talk by Dr. Garret Lisi who gives a run through of his new theory of everything!

E8 Group - A illustration by Claudio Rocchini

E8 Group - A illustration by Claudio Rocchini

Ted talk by Antony Garrett Lisi

Further Reading

  1. For Symmetry in Bach’s Music
  2. Mathematics: A Beauty and a beast – An article from Nature magazine

ps : The sound that an orchestra can produce (referring to Stokowski’s intepretation) is irreplacable, isn’t it ?

  1. Wonderful! “Bach and the patterns he put forward was responsible for shattering many of my immature, premature and abrupt notions.”

    This will be right up your alley:

  2. Just to add that your post(s) ticked all the boxes for things that I am very interested in.

  3. Lol, oh yea. Last year’s is hilarious.

    Back to Bach, and are quite nice exposés on the fugues and Goldberg variations.

    The topic for your thesis looks interesting, will be great if you could sum it up in a post (or a dance :D).

  4. Once with various WTK pieces I rotated the score 180 degress. It STILL made sense. I took things like WTK1 C maj prelude, changed it to C minor… STILL made sense. Drastically changed the orchestration in a sequencer… still great (and yes the Stowkowski versions of some of the organ pieces are brilliant).

    In other words, unlike many other musical works, a lot of Bach stuff maintains integrity through heaps of different types of transformations, suggesting that it could be translated into the scale used by whales (or aliens) and it would make sense to them.

    You’ve read Godel Escher Bach, I hope.

    p.s. you and some of your readers might like some of the stuff I’ve reworked in sequencers here to remove the liturgy.

    And to “nm”, the only ballet that ever made sense to me was a series of TV shows where the modern ballet was put to each of the Cello suites.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: