In any group, or collection of entities, whether it be the notes
of a chord, or members of an ensemble, the number n of implied
connections between the members goes up as the square of n.
This means that we do not have a smooth linear progression from
simple to more and more complex, but rather a dramatic exponential
increase as the number increases. Although this property is purely
mathematical, it has many interesting social and perceptual
That makes for 16 relationships in a string quartet. Say, you have
four woman in the quartet. One might be heterosexual, for example,
and one gay, another bi-sexual, and the fourth an abstinent monk.
So, as we think things through and consider all the relationship
permutations of such a relatively small, simple ensemble, we
begin to see that it is actually quite complex and rich. This is
at the relationship level—which I’m suggesting is all important—
whether in terms of the interpersonal, or in terms of rhythm
Let’s continue to explore larger sets of relationship.
For instance, there are 114 relationships in a 12-note chord.
Some modern progressive composers like Luciano Berio,
Iannis Xankis, and especially Edgar Varese, have used this
inherent natural complexity of many-note chords to great effect.
And there are 289 relationships between the sounds of a
simple 17-step poem, or haiku.
At this point, however, something extremely interesting happens.
We can no longer consciously “follow,” as it were, all the movements
of relationship. There are simply too many. Like when we count
the number stamens or male part of a flower, we tend to go,
as all botanists know, 1-2-3-4-5-many. In other words, at a
certain point, what we see resolves itself into a cluster of
indeterminate number. This is where I think we need the idea
of resonance. You might think of this as all the various
relationships in a space vibrating together, just the way the
notes or sounds of chord do. It is here where we transition
of thinking—indeed, I would argue that must be so—from
quantity to quality. In poetry, for example, this is what we
might call a poetry’s and a poet’s sense of sound, or
resonance. This is also where the ear and intuition do and
must take over from the marks on written page.
WHAT YOU MAKE
Every time you step in your car, you step out of natural time
and space and sound. These movements are alien to me, and
yet they condition all that I see and hear around me. Try to be
serious. Why should I be interested in what you make?
There’s a hiatus in all the chatter
around the evening camp fire.
In the background,
the sound of rushing water.
I remember every single photograph
I make in exquisite detail.
I don’t want this.
How can it heal?
The river I sit next to runs fifty kilometers
from highland crest
to low canyon confluence.
Four times a day, it purifies itself
from beginning to end,
and yet the stream of my mind
seems filled with the opaque runoff from
the feedlots where cattle are fattened.
I don’t want this.
Youth is the time of acquiring new things;
Middle age tries to hold on to what it has;
Old age loses one thing after another, irreversibly.
Then, I say, then, we are young again.
The one thing you never want to take for granted
is the freedom which allows you to take freedom for granted.
NEW OLD MINDS
We shape the world and the world shapes us.
I meet many young people along the trail, and yet, I frequently
find that their minds are already old. Chew a bit of Agastache leaf
for heart and nerves, I say to myself. In the secret chamber of
my inner ear, I listen to the sound of the Spirit Thrush, solitary
miracle, two streams of music folded together in dialogue, one
a sharp, regular staccato, always on but a single pitch, and then,
somehow fitting in between, these magnificent spiral staircase
flourishes to the stars. Who can I tell about this?