Hofstadter, Pahud, Bach

The latest ACO concert series features the Swiss flautist Emmanuel Pahud (interview here). The performance included J.S. Bach’s 6 Part Ricercar, from The Musical Offering, which was the inspiration for the final dialogue in Douglas Hofstadter’s Godel, Esher, Bach:

Achilles has brought his cello to the Crab’s residence, to engage in an evening of chamber music with the Crab and Tortoise. He has been shown into the music room by his host the Crab, who is momentarily absent, having gone to meet their mutual  friend the Tortoise at the door. The room is filled with all sorts of electronic equipment-phonographs in various states of array and disarray, television screens attached to typewriters, and other quite improbable-looking pieces of apparatus.  Nestled amongst all this high-powered gadgetry sits a humble radio. Since the radio is the only thing in the room which Achilles knows how to use, he walks over to it, and, a little furtively, flicks the dial and finds he has tuned into a panel discussion by six learned scholars on free will and determinism. He listens briefly and then, a little scornfully, flicks it off. …

On the text:

This Dialogue is an exuberant game played with many of the ideas which have permeated the book. It is a reenactment of the story of the Musical Offering, which began the book; it is simultaneously a “translation” into words of the most complex piece in the Musical Offering: the Six-Part Ricercar. This duality imbues the Dialogue with more levels of meaning than any other in the book. Frederick the Great is replaced by the Crab, pianos by computers, and so on. Many surprises arise. The Dialogue’s content concerns problems of mind, consciousness, free will, Artificial Intelligence, the Turing test, and so forth, which have been introduced earlier.  It concludes with an implicit reference to the beginning of the book, thus making the book into one big self-referential loop, symbolizing at once Bach’s music, Escher’s drawings, and Gödel’s Theorem.

From: Gödel, Escher, Bach Wiki 

And the music:


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