Symphony Quotes (10 quotes)
[On why are numbers beautiful?] It’s like asking why is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is.
Among the memoirs of Kirchhoff are some of uncommon beauty. … Can anything be beautiful, where the author has no time for the slightest external embellishment?—But—; it is this very simplicity, the indispensableness of each word, each letter, each little dash, that among all artists raises the mathematician nearest to the World-creator; it establishes a sublimity which is equalled in no other art, something like it exists at most in symphonic music. The Pythagoreans recognized already the similarity between the most subjective and the most objective of the arts.
An evolution is a series of events that in itself as series is purely physical, — a set of necessary occurrences in the world of space and time. An egg develops into a chick; … a planet condenses from the fluid state, and develops the life that for millions of years makes it so wondrous a place. Look upon all these things descriptively, and you shall see nothing but matter moving instant after instant, each instant containing in its full description the necessity of passing over into the next. … But look at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically, as a musician listens to a symphony, as a spectator watches a drama. Now you shall seem to have seen, in phenomenal form, a story.
Aristotle ... imputed this symphony of the heavens ... this music of the spheres to Pythagorus. ... But Pythagoras alone of mortals is said to have heard this harmony ... If our hearts were as pure, as chaste, as snowy as Pythagoras' was, our ears would resound and be filled with that supremely lovely music of the wheeling stars.
In a purely technical sense, each species of higher organism—beetle, moss, and so forth, is richer in information than a Caravaggio painting, Mozart symphony, or any other great work of art. Consider the typical case of the house mouse, Mus musculus. Each of its cells contains four strings of DNA, each of which comprises about a billion nucleotide pairs organized into a hundred thousand structural nucleotide pairs, organized into a hundred thousand structural genes. … The full information therein, if translated into ordinary-sized printed letters, would just about fill all 15 editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica published since 1768.
It would be possible to describe absolutely everything scientifically, but it would make no sense. It would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
My first view - a panorama of brilliant deep blue ocean, shot with shades of green and gray and white - was of atolls and clouds. Close to the window I could see that this Pacific scene in motion was rimmed by the great curved limb of the Earth. It had a thin halo of blue held close, and beyond, black space. I held my breath, but something was missing - I felt strangely unfulfilled. Here was a tremendous visual spectacle, but viewed in silence. There was no grand musical accompaniment; no triumphant, inspired sonata or symphony. Each one of us must write the music of this sphere for ourselves.
The harmony of the universe knows only one musical form - the legato; while the symphony of number knows only its opposite - the staccato. All attempts to reconcile this discrepancy are based on the hope that an accelerated staccato may appear to our senses as a legato.
We rest in the immense and complete order of the earth. And then it may well happen that what we have been seeing as beautiful repose changes into motions; lines seem to rise and fall, surfaces wave and swing. Folding, which long ago buckled horizontal strata into huge subterranean waves of stone (folds) is revived. The rounded crests of folds rise and fall rhythmically. Giant smoking volcanoes stand in a row like the pipes of a cosmic organ through which the earth’s mighty breath blows its roaring music. Granite domes in the deserts, the broadly arched shields of the Rocky Mountains become the chimes waiting only for the earthquake’s stroke to awaken the mighty symphony that drowns out all human tones and resounds throughout the world.
Wherever we seek to find constancy we discover change. Having looked at the old woodlands in Hutcheson Forest, at Isle Royale, and in the wilderness of the boundary waters, in the land of the moose and the wolf, and having uncovered the histories hidden within the trees and within the muds, we find that nature undisturbed is not constant in form, structure, or proportion, but changes at every scale of time and space. The old idea of a static landscape, like a single musical chord sounded forever, must be abandoned, for such a landscape never existed except in our imagination. Nature undisturbed by human influence seems more like a symphony whose harmonies arise from variation and change over many scales of time and space, changing with individual births and deaths, local disruptions and recoveries, larger scale responses to climate from one glacial age to another, and to the slower alterations of soils, and yet larger variations between glacial ages.