sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
[personal profile] sylvansafekeepe
I had a wonderful dream last night.

It actually wasn't a dream so much as an unconscious thought experiment, but still...

So, during the Convox, there's extended discussion of what sorts of things we could determine about a race of aliens from another universe, simply via the knowledge that their universe can interact with ours on a molecular level (we can smell things from their world, we can hear them talk, etc.) A lot of this comes down to the theory that there are a certain number of physical constants that must remain necessary for 'life' to occur.

And there's also a conversation with Grandsuur Moyra, later expanded once we learn that there is something of a one-to-one correspondence, regarding the existence of similar figures in each universe (Adrahkones/Pythagoras, most notably).

My brain decided to start something of an internal debate regarding whether or not this sort of thing would be likely to extend to other cultural aspects than just math/philosophy. Specifically, music and violin construction. Givens: we know that music exists in both our world as well as Arbre (probably Urnud and Tro, too, but we don't know this for certain). We know that the mathic music of Arbre is heavily based around mathematics, and numerically significant/pleasing progressions. There's also popular music in Arbre. And the development of the different scales/modes/intervals in our world has something of a mathematical component to it. We know that LaTerran music is, at the least, unobjectionable to Fraa Erasmus's ears (via a throwaway comment during his trip around one of the LaTerran orbs at the near-end of the novel). More specifically, Erasmus is able to identify the music as being played on a bowed instrument, even though he doesn't see it. I decided that there are likely enough similarities between the worlds that we can safely assume that, at the very least, there are violin-shaped objects on Arbre.

The basic shape of the violin (and viola, cello, and double bass) is, I think, pretty close to perfect in terms of ease of use, ability to produce particular sounds, etc (at least as far as refinement goes). There's a chain of development beginning with primitive bowed instruments to rebecs to viols, but once you get to Amati/Stradivarius, the only real physical change of note is the neck adjustment of the 19th century, a change that made it easier both to get increased power as well as perform Paganini-esque stunts of virtuosity up and down the neck of the instrument. The actual shape of the violin has remained largely unchanged for nearly 350 years now, excepting miniscule alterations in graduation. You could say that we've gotten reasonably close to a Hylaean Theoric World instrument, if such a thing could be said to exist.

So I started wondering whether you could expect similar development on other worlds. Was there a Stradivarius on Arbre? Or, on a basic level, could we expect to see similar musical concepts from universe to universe, taking into account that such things are based on mathematical relationships? Does Arbre have an equivalent of maple and spruce that would be used for making their bowed instruments, or was their optimal wood choice (taking possibly different vibrative effects into account -- here we get back to what sorts of constants exist in all universes capable of supporting life and to what extent we can interact with them -- in essence, things are different on a molecular level; see food) something else? And, if the wood used to make stringed instruments on Arbre is different than wood here, is there a chance that Arbran violins are actually different than the ones we have. We don't know if the Arbran 'maple' has the ability to become flamed, so there's actually a shot that their stringed instruments might not use figured wood.

The eventual result of all this musing was that we simply don't have enough information to come to any real conclusions. And it's something of a silly mental debate, anyway, since I'm operating off of a work of fiction. But it was a heck of a lot of fun to think about (and actually remember, once I woke up).

This also may have been the single nerdiest thing that my mind has ever done.

Date: 2010-01-28 08:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is pretty nerdy and wonderful. I wonder if Stephenson knows the answer, even if he didn't put it in the book.


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