Gödel, Escher, Bach and Music Notation

I’ve started reading Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.  This is my fourth attempt in five years at reading and completing this tome.  It’s densely packed and its subject matter requires a significant amount of focus and consideration.

But I’m committed to finishing it this time!  I know its message is a powerful one.  In Hofstadter’s own words (from the preface):

“GEB is a very personal attempt to say how it is that animate beings can come out of inanimate matter. What is a self, and how can a self come out of stuff that is selfless as a stone or a puddle?”

I was more struck with this passage:

“When a system of “meaningless” symbols has patterns in it that accurately track, or mirror, various phenomenon in the world, then that tracking or mirroring imbues the symbols with some degree of meaning – indeed, such tracking or mirroring is no less and no more than what meaning is.  Depending on how complex and subtle and reliable the tracking is, different degrees of meaningfulness arise.”

Recently, I wrote this post and outlined some reasons a musician should learn to read music.  After reading only a few chapters from GEB, I’m realizing how shallow my reasoning is.  I can’t say that I’m wrong (yet!); my intuition is telling me there’s still some truth there.  But considering GEB, there’s much more territory to explore!  There are broader implications at work!

At the heart of all of this is the question: “Why read music?”  I hope to write about this more in the coming months…

In the meantime, if you’re a GEB fan, say “aye!”

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