Change changes

Although a musician’s life is rightly concerned with producing and playing music, musicians will occasionally wonder what it all really means. This subject continues to be important, chiefly because of the emphasis placed on ‘creativity’ in schools and colleges. Using a term that no one really understands to describe something that might not exist, if the Universe is deterministic, is unhelpful.

The most important and practical reason for objecting to the prevailing approach is that, as I have stated elsewhere, reliance on ideas coming from nowhere is not the way to get the best results, anyway. The conscious manipulation of musical materials will achieve refreshingly different results of a kind that would not arise from a purely ‘intuitive’ approach whether or not, as the music evolves, we treat it to modifications, or even abandon it completely. This is not ‘painting by numbers’. 

In the seventeenth century, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was one of the greatest representatives of 17th century rationalism and is closely associated with his theorem of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. The overarching consideration is that the Universe represents a phase space, bounded by initial conditions, and presided over by immutable laws.

For any process to be meaningful, we require outer limits. It isn’t sufficient to claim that a journey was completed in an hour, for example. We need to know how long the journey was and how fast we were travelling. Similar considerations surround the attempt to establish fuel consumption figures or to measure energy efficiency.

Science is still unable to prescribe outer limits for the Universe. Did it start from nothing in the Big Bang or is there a cycle of *aeons, something that is easier and more comfortable for humans to accept. If the latter case is true we have another problem: are the laws passed over from one aeon to the next those that would be familiar to us?

And what about the other ‘end’? Eternity is infinity projected through time and humanity finds the idea of infinities to be troubling, as Einstein himself did. We might decide it is a practical approach to work with them, for the time being, rather than waste valuable time debating their existence but they continue to haunt us.

There is an unspoken inference that the immutable laws are, in some way, on the outside looking in, in which case, where are they? They must be here and, as Roberto Mangabeira Unger points out, they must be subject to the same evolutionary processes as everything else. Change changes.

Leibnitz believed in an unbroken chain of causality, from antiquity to the unforeseeable future, rather like the unfolding pages and chapters in a book, but his attempt to attain explanatory closure is in trouble. The idea also requires that time ‘passes’, which is another problem.

As Unger points out, the most important fact about the Universe is that it is what it is rather than something else. We cannot claim that it MUST be what it is.

* Read Conformal Cyclic Cosmology by Sir Roger Penrose (who might not agree with the content of this blog).


2 thoughts on “Change changes

  1. Hi John

    I wont pretend to understand some of that stuff – but for sure the things you comment on at the beginning about teaching creativity is really true and reflects some of the lazy – something for nothing malaise that currently afflicts us

    Talk soon



  2. Charlie, people allow glib expressions to fall from their tongues without stopping to question them and that includes some who should know better. Many of the culprits are not stupid, obviously, since they teach in some of the leading schools and colleges. It’s really all about salesmanship; the implication that an applicant might have qualities denied to lesser individuals.


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