Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Music Research Seminar: Michael Winter

Over 300 years ago, Leibniz predicted many current trends in music: a lecture/performance

Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music


The speaker is Michael Winter


I was recently asked to write a piece for the 300th anniversary of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s death and have been investigating musical threads running through his vast body of writing. Even within his early works, it was clear that Leibniz had very deep musical insights. For example, his dissertation entitled “On the Art of Combinations” discusses applications of combinatorics to possible musical registries of an organ and in a later letter to Christian Goldbach, Leibniz suggests an extended harmony based on higher primes.

Leibniz worked in a world with far less specialization than is common today. He was a polymath of epic proportions who drew little distinction between various intellectual domains; including music. In this talk, I will follow three particular connections between Leibniz’s ideas and my own work / influences: 1) combinatorics as applied to generating music, 2) extended harmonic spaces, and 3) the influence of digital philosophy from Leibniz to modern mathematicians such as Gregory Chaitin.

Many of Leibniz’s texts are in the form of letters. The lecture will be followed by a performance of Spanish version of my new piece, preliminary thoughts, which is a “musical letter” to Gregory Chaitin with initial thoughts and reactions to my early investigations into the life and work of Leibniz addressing combinatorics, harmony, aesthetics, structure, epistemological vs. practical limits, free will, and even love with respect to creativity. The text of the letter sounds against a minimal guitar part that continually repeats a set of 6 tones with ever changing durations between the articulations of the tones and random flickerings of computer-generated noise.

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