Thursday, June 09, 2005

Two Quotes

"Physicists and philosophers won't know anything until they learn to dance." Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and the Case of Wagner.

"Physicists do understand one element of dance -- simple repetitive rhythm." William Benzon, Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture.

We know that physicists are very classy. Is it the classiness that limits their dance abilities? Physicists, what do you have to say for yourselves?

7 comments:

Chad Orzel said...

Oh, sure, like I trust anything Nietzsche says...

What do I have to say for myself? In my specific case, I blame genetics-- my father doesn't dance, either. And he's not a physicist.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Fair enough. I guess dancing isn't an evolutionary adaptation.

Do you agree with Benzon that you have an understanding of simple rhythm? Benzon, of course, is being cute with the whole simple harmonic motion idea. But you listen to a lot of music. Do you feel you have an understanding of the more complex aspects of rhythm?

Chad Orzel said...

Do you agree with Benzon that you have an understanding of simple rhythm? Benzon, of course, is being cute with the whole simple harmonic motion idea. But you listen to a lot of music. Do you feel you have an understanding of the more complex aspects of rhythm?

I'm not entirely sure what you mean. I do listen to a lot of music, and like some complex rhythmic things, but I wouldn't claim to have much of an understanding of them in the way that a music person would. I can dimly remember some things about time signatures from my long-ago days as a band geek, and I know that 3/4 isn't the same as 6/8, but beyond that, I don't know much.

To the degree that simple oscillations are related to rhythm, then, yes, physicists know a lot about that sort of thing. But I don't know that I'd call that "rhythm" in a musical sense.

Sean said...

What do you mean? Dancing is absolutely an evolutionary adaptation; men who do it well (or willingly, even if not well) are much more likely to procreate. The surprising thing is that the non-dancing genes still persist in the gene pool; they must serve some other function.

I think that Nietzsche was right. But it would have been simpler to say "Physicists and philosophers will never know anything."

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Chad: I mean, can you feel things besides the basic beat, enough that you could tap it, or move a body part of your choice to it?

Sean: Nietzsche couldn't just say that, otherwise it would be like saying that all Cretans are liars.

Timothy Phillips said...

The limitations on my dancing ability are mainly due to my shyness, not to my classiness.

Chad Orzel said...

Chad: I mean, can you feel things besides the basic beat, enough that you could tap it, or move a body part of your choice to it?

I can certainly recognize things more complex than a 4/4 beat (OBDennisMiller: "White people in this country haven't had a band they could dance to since Bachman Turner Overdrive..."), and I can tap them out just fine. Actual dancing is inhibited by the fact that I'm pretty large, and not always all that well coordinated.