Seinfeld’s “nothing” and John Cage’s “silence”

Seinfeld called itself a “show about nothing.” The following video (via Lauren Rabaino) captures this cleverly by compiling moments of “nothing.”

As I watched, the stark “nothingess” compressed together in such a literal way reminded me of John Cage‘s concept of “silence.”

The experimental composer’s piece 4’33” is generally referred to as his “silent” piece. But, like Seinfeld, it is — despite its label — not silent at all.
For Cage, it’s about the shifting the focus from the performer to the audience and sounds of the environment in which the piece is performed.

With the general Seinfeld-Cage connection in mind, I thought:

Doing a quick search after this, I found that Joel Garten previously made a similar connection in a piece about MoMA’s current Cage exhibit.

As a longtime Seinfeld fan and someone who visited that Cage earlier this year, I never made the connection until sparks by that video.

Searching further, I found the connection to be even stronger when I stumbled across Cage’s 1949 “Lectures on Nothing:”

I have nothing to say and I am saying it


Let me know if you’ve seen anything about this connection before. I’d be very interested to read more or hear your thoughts.

P.S. Speaking of Cage, who used indeterminacy (a.k.a. chance operations) in his music, I’m also very interested to know if anyone has written about chance in Mallarmé’s poem Un coup de des as it relates to Forrest Gump:

Manipulated music mirroring Möbius-mannered movie

Inception Music Comparison (by Cameron Whitehouse)

It’s been a while since I first saw this video comparing the most recognizable part of the Inception soundtrack with Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” But this time I did a quick search after watching and found an L.A. Times post with the following quote (emphasis in bold is mine):

“If you were to see this movie a second time,” Zimmer said, “you realize the last note you hear in the movie is the first note in the movie. It’s a Möbius band. But the next thing you hear over the logos is actually telling a story. You realize that the elements that we’ve extracted from the Piaf song are the way you get from one dream level to the next. When the movie starts, some action has already happened.”

From another LAT post:

Pieces of Piaf’s interpretation of the song were stretched, manipulated and woven into Zimmer’s score.

Möbius on my mind? Probably. I wonder what Hofstadter would have to say about this…

Patterns in shells, cellular automata, knitting and music

Earlier tonight I read the following article (via an NYT piece about Nautilus mag):

Biologists Home in on Turing Patterns: Was Alan Turing right about the mechanism behind tiger stripes?

For the work that led to his 1952 paper, Turing wanted to understand the underlying mechanism that produces natural patterns. He proposed that patterns such as spots form as a result of the interactions between two chemicals that spread throughout a system much like gas atoms in a box do, with one crucial difference. Instead of diffusing evenly like a gas, the chemicals, which Turing called “morphogens,” diffuse at different rates. One serves as an activator to express a unique characteristic, like a tiger’s stripe, and the other acts as an inhibitor, kicking in periodically to shut down the activator’s expression.

And then watched an older video linked from it:

Mathematical Impressions: Shell Games

From the description:

One-dimensional, two-state cellular automata produce a list of bits at discrete time steps, whose output, depending on the parameters, may be trivial or very complex. Surprisingly, this simple mechanism can be Turing complete — that is, capable of calculating anything that any computer can calculate.

The knitting part reminded me of this photo I took of one of my mom’s crocheting pattern books:

"I can read patterns. It's kind of like programming," says @excdinglyrandom while crocheting next to me.

A photo posted by Greg Linch (@greglinch) on

“I can read patterns. It’s kind of like programming,” says @excdinglyrandom while crocheting next to me.

I then went to Hart’s site, which included a link to his daughter’s YouTube page. I hadn’t watched one of Vi Hart‘s videos for a while, so I browsed and immediately clicked the one on Folding Space-Time:

And, of course, it reminded me of Crab Canon on a Möbius Strip:

All of this really just being another reminder that I need to continue reading Gödel, Escher, Bach!

Music and code: Great insights from David Johnson, Zed Shaw and others

Some random thought about music theory and structure (namely, loops) floating around my mind led to an interesting discussion of music and code this weekend. The discussion was topped off quite nicely by a comment Zed Shaw wrote on Reddit about why being a musician can make you a good programmer.

If you can’t see the embed above, view the discussion on Storify.