The Other I

December 9, 2010

Music, mystery, and math

It’s not clear to me whether Iannis Xenakis thought of himself more as a musician or an architect.  He was outstandingly brilliant in both.  Mathematics was a bridge for him, and he found music in his modernistic architecture and geometry and set theory in music.

But he was a no mere translator of music into numbers.

Music, he said, was a way to find answers to phenomena we don’t understand.

Xanakis does not seemed to have talked a lot about what he came to understand through music.  Perhaps he felt the music said it for him.

If so, I think I understand.  Music often gives me a glimpse of things I do not yet have words for.  It’s like an arrow pointing to something which I cannot yet reach through rational  or scientific analysis.

I have too great a legacy of distrust for belief based on “faith” to place unquestioning trust in insights music suggests to me.  But I take it seriously.  And it has given me immense joy and strength.

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