Musical influence

Listening to the string quarters of Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), his Basque composition student Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga (1806-1826), and those of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), we can hear the influence of musical ideas. I thought it interesting to list their quartets in the order they were composed. (In the list below, each quartet is prefaced by the composer’s initials.). Arriaga’s three quartets were published in 1824, but may have been written well before.  It is interesting that Cherubini had only written one string quartet before meeting Arriaga, while after Arriaga’s three were written, Cherubini then wrote another five.
1814: LG Quartet No. 1 in Eb major
1822 October: Arriaga moved to Paris from Bilbao
1824: JA Quartet No.1 in D minor
1824: JA Quartet No. 2 in A major
1824: JA Quartet No.3 in Eb major
1825 Spring: Mendelssohn’s father took his son to Paris to visit with Cherubini, and while there Mendelssohn may also have met with Arriaga
1825: FM Octet in Eb major, Op. 20
1826: Death of Arriaga
1827: FM Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13
1829: LC Quartet No. 2 in C major
1829: FM Quartet No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 12
1834: LC Quartet No. 3 in D minor
1835: LC Quartet No. 4 in E
1835: LC Quartet No. 5 in F
1837: LC Quartet No. 6 in A minor
1837: FM Quartet No. 4 in E minor, Op. 44, No. 2
1838: FM Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 44, No. 1
1842: Death of Cherubini
1847: FM Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80
1847: Death of Mendelssohn.

Recent Reading 12

The latest in a sequence of lists of recently-read books. The books are listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recently-read book at the top.

  • Edward Fulbrook [2016]:  Narrative Fixation in Economics. UK:  College Publications.
  • Pamela Vass [2016]:  The Power of Three:  Thomas Fowler, Devon’s Forgotten Genius. UK: Boundstone Books.
  • Charles Babbage [1835]:  On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. UK:  Charles Knight.
  • Timothy James Burke [1996]:  Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women:  Commodification, Consumption and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe. USA:  Duke University Press.
  • Petina Gappah [2016]:  Rotten Row. UK:  Faber & Faber.
  • Continue reading ‘Recent Reading 12’

Popper vs Kuhn

For Popper scientific communities are politically virtuous because they permit unfettered criticism.   A scientific community is, by (Popper’s) definition, an open society.  Kuhn had to be shouted down because he seemed to deny this claim.”

Page 920 of B. Larvor [2000]:   Review of I. Lakatos and P. Feyerabend: “For and Against Method“. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 51: 919-922.

Self-rebutting arguments

The Bank of England has been criticized because the next person selected to appear on English banknotes – Winston Churchill, on the 5-pound note – is again male, which will mean that all the figures selected to appear on English banknotes for their contributions to society will be men.   Caroline Criado-Perez has begun a legal campaign against this blatent sexism, and all power to her.
One response she has apparently encountered is that this matter is too trivial an issue for anyone to be concerned about.  But that particular argument is self-rebutting:  If the placement of images of women on national banknotes is trivial and without significant material consequences, then why not do it?!    The strength of the Bank of England’s dismissal of her campaign would seem to indicate that – to them, at least – the matter is not at all trivial.    Perhaps we should not be surprised by antediluvial attitudes to gender from an organization whose front-doormen still dress in 18th-century clothes and top-hats.
The stated criteria for appearing on banknotes apparently includes: “the person should not be controversial”.  How, then, I wonder did Winston Churchill, to this day distrusted in Australia as the chief architect of the disaster at Gallipoli, find himself selected?

Thurston on mathematical proof

The year 2012 saw the death of Bill Thurston, leading geometer and Fields Medalist.   Learning of his death led me to re-read his famous 1994 AMS paper on the social nature of mathematical proof.   In my opinion, Thurston demolished the views of those who thought mathematics is anything other than socially-constructed.  This post is just to present a couple of long quotes from the paper.
Continue reading ‘Thurston on mathematical proof’

The semantics of communication

A recent incident reminded me of Nicolas Negroponte’s argument that a single wink (one bit of information) may communicate effectively between two people, and yet require a thousand words to explain to someone else.
The scene: A small group meeting of 5 people (an EC research proposal review meeting), none of whom know each other or have worked together before. The meeting chair, let’s call her Alice, wants another person, Bob, to endorse a particular outline plan of action. This plan does not entail him doing anything, but he is nonetheless resistant, and puts forward both reasonable and unreasonable justifications for not endorsing the plan. Alice tries another couple of arguments, but each of these meets similar resistance from Bob. At this point, Alice does not know what the rest of us think about her plan or Bob’s opinion of it.
Having heard the two sides, I decide that Alice is correct and that Bob should endorse the plan. But Alice, I believe, has not used the best arguments in favour of his doing so, and thus I add my voice to her side, giving a new argument to justify Bob changing his opinion. My argument fails with Bob, but leads Alice to think of a further argument, and both our arguments together have a consequence that completely rebuts Bob’s reasonable main defence for non-endorsement. When she presents this line (my argument + her argument + their joint consequence) to him, Bob wilts and agrees to endorse Alice’s plan.
However, just before Alice presents this line to Bob, she shoots me a quick look of conspiratorial deviousness, as if to say, “We got him, you and I, and in getting him, we have demonstrated our intellectual superiority and mental agility over him. Although we just met, we two have conspired effectively and enjoyably together.” It was a look of the most profound respect – a connection between equals, in the presence of someone whose persistent and unreasonable resistance to a reasonable proposal had revealed himself to be less committed to the agreed purpose of the meeting.  And receiving it was the most profound of pleasures.

Command Dialogs

Three years ago, in a post about Generation Kill and Nate Fick, I remarked that military commands often need dialog between commander and commandee(s) before they may be rationally accepted, and/or executed.   Sadly, a very good demonstration of the failure to adequately discuss commands (or purported commands) in a complex (police) action is shown by a report on the UC-Davis Pepper Spray incident.  
Management textbooks of a certain vintage used to define management as the doing of things through others.   The Pepper Spray example clearly shows the difficulties and challenges involved in actually achieving such vicarious doing in dynamic and ambiguous situations.  And the poverty of Philosophy is not better shown than by the fact that the speech act of commanding has barely been studied at all by philosophers, obsessed these last 2,350 years with understanding assertions of facts.  (Chellas, Hamblin, Girle and Parsons are exceptions.)

Visual Reasoning

Robin Boyd called the prevailing post-war urban style of anglo-saxon architecture “Featurism”, with each building shouting to passers-by, “Me!  Me!  Look at Me!”.    Such self-promotion contrasts markedly with the dialectical approach of continental European architecture, where buildings engage in dialogue with the buildings and spaces around them.   A nice example of the latter can be found in Liverpool, UK.
The Foundation Building is a modern, glass-fronted office building between the Metropolitan (Catholic) Cathedral in Liverpool and the University of Liverpool.  Since its private-sector construction in 2006, it has been occupied by the senior administration of the University.

Upon first seeing it, I was intrigued by the 6 columns that navigate its semi-circular front.  Why are there exactly 6 columns, and why are 4 of them equidistant, while the last 2 (shown here on the right of the photo) are much closer together?   Such design decisions are rarely arbitrary; either there are engineering reasons for them or they indicate some great architectural subtlety.  In this case, it the latter reason.
For, just across the street is the red-brick Mountford Hall, dating from 1911, and now part of the University of Liverpool’s Guild of Students.

The street facade of this building has a semi-circular first-floor balcony, supported by 4 equidistant columns, and a ceremonial front door, supported by 2 columns much closer together.  The door is on the left in this photo, directly opposite the 2 closer columns on the Foundation Building.
I note here the architectural tip of the hat by the designer of the Foundation Building, and thank him or her for this pleasing subtlety.