Thursday 25 April 2013


When we see a pattern, what we really see is redundancy.


is not a pattern. but



all those As are not that dissimilar from the Fs here...

The one A (or the one F) can summarise the pattern. But if we say

A x 15

that doesn't have the same patterning as 



A x 15, A x 14, A x 13, A x 12...


(but at a different level)

Is the difference between abstraction and experience the difference between levels of redundancy?

When we abstract, we remove redundancy. That's what happens in Schenker's analyses (this one of Bach's first prelude):

The key redundant component removed in all of this is:

With Schenker, it simply becomes a C-major chord. But if it was really just a C-major chord, it would be a very boring piece!

Redundancy shapes its form. Creation is a process of redundancy generation: ABABABABCABABBABAABABC... (and so on!)

How does this work? The question is about the relationship between redundancy and novelty: when things are redundant, they create the conditions for something new. 

Today, Spain's unemployment statistics are 27%. That's a lot of redundancy. Maybe that is also the condition for something new. (let us hope it is beautiful rather than ugly!)

I suspect that redundancy creates novelty through a kind of catalytic process (Terry Deacon has got Autocatalysis just about right, I think). With a lot of catalysts in the air, an unexpected reaction becomes more probable, suddenly sparking into life from nowhere. Something new causes a reorganisation of expectations: this is when we know something is meaningful. The new thing causes everything else to be re-cast. Then new redundancies can grow, and the process begins again. It's tension and release.

Schenker was right about layers though. This (I think) is the emergent irreducible stratification of experience. In this way, we remember motifs, tonalities, progressions, etc - they become irreducible components: almost like the "code" or the components of a grammar. The emergence of the code, and the expression of statements within it produces new absences.

There is a magical moment, however, when an old code is completely transformed into something different...

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