Tag Archive: Richard Feynman


I am always on the lookout for new metaphors to assist me to improvise jazz. My latest efforts have been in the area of quantum physics. Unfortunately, quantum physics has no direction, no aesthetics, and no love. It is strictly probabilistic and functional. Cubism, on the other hand, is an artistic and geometric concept which combines physics (planes, dimensions) with perspective, shape, and artistic creative energy. Besides, cubist art is my favorite form of art. While I’m attracted to 12-tone music, I’m a real novice at it and need to work more on treating it in terms of improvisation. Cubism might be a way to improvise from the perspective of shifting tonalities, rhythms, meter, scales, and atonality as a vehicle to effective, moving expression.

Let me sketch out some brief ideas. There is an interpretive structure to improvisation which is a form of spontaneous composition. What if we structure improv musically to include things from different perspectives to bring together objects as seen from different dimensions, utilizing elements of music assembled with an arc designed to hear something as a metaphor for visual things seen as if the musician were a cubist? What would the musician use in her attempt to create a sonic representation of different elements? What would some of those elements consist of?

  • Here’s a brief list of some of the ways musicians could approach the problem of creating music cubistically:
    • Texture
      • Continuum from rough to smooth
      • Granular and gritty to liquid and fluid
      • Layers reminiscent of geological layers as seen on the walls of a chasm or on mountainsides        
    • Rhythm
      • Continuum from classical and unaccented through all variations of popular rhythms including jazz swing and all forms of jazz historically beginning with 19th century forms into the present
      • Electronic jazz to electroacoustic
      • All forms of rock
        • Hip hop
        • Funk
        • Ska
        • Reggae
        • Metal
        • Blues
      • Rhythms of different cultures
        • Indian
        • African
        • Asian
        • Middle eastern
        • South American
        • Indigenous and tribal
    • Meter
      • Western meter used in jazz
        • 4/4
        • ¾
        • 6/8
        • 2/4
        • 9/8
    • Non-western meter
      • 5/4
      • 7/4
      • 11/4
      • 13/4
    • Chord changes
      • Complex bebop changes
      • Simple postbop changes
      • Drones
    • Musical notes
      • Continuum from tonal to atonal/12-tonal
      • Continuum of intervals from consonant to dissonant
        • Large intervals
        • Small intervals
        • Close intervals
        • Scalar intervals
          • Major
          • Minor
          • Whole tonal
          • International scales
            • Different ragas
            • Persian scales
            • Scales from a variety of folk musics used for example by Bartok, Tchaikovsky, Spanish, French, English, Celtic, German
    • Blues
      • Country blues
      • Funky blues
      • Bebop
      • Cool
      • Honky tonk
      • Roots
    • Emotion
      • Meditative
      • Warm and sweet
      • Soulful
      • Negative
        • Anger
        • Rage
        • Fury
        • Defensive
        • Reactive
        • Fear
      • Positive
        • Joy
        • Happy
        • Light
        • Fluttery
        • Warm
    • Abstract to primitive
    • Different instruments
      • Strings
      • Reeds
      • Brass
      • Percussion
      • Combinations of different instruments
        • Solo
        • Sections
    • Musical metaphors
      • Weather
        • Stormy
        • Rain
        • Wind
        • Sunny
        • Cold
        • Warm
        • Lightening
        • Thunder
      • Cosmic
      • Quantum
      • Cubist
    • Psychological
      • Jungian
        • Functions of personality
          • Thinking
          • Feeling
          • Sensation
          • Intuition
          • Judgment
          • Perception
        • Metaphysical
          • Unconscious
          • Collective unconscious
          • Myth structure
          • Alchemy
          • Dreaming
      • Freudian
        • Unconscious
        • Abreaction
        • Wish fulfillment
        • Sexual fulfillment

Flattening, deconstruction, rearrangement of perspective, elimination of depth, monochromatic color—all these typify cubist painting. Ultimately, abstraction from reality marks the demarcation of cubism from more representational art. But, as far as I can tell, performance art is less represented than sculpture, painting, collage, all visual art forms at least regarding cubist expression. In fact, aside from Merce Cunningham and his movement strategies which do not rely on programmatic notes or references to anything but movement, I cannot think of any performance art which relies on cubism to inform its realization. And, I’m not sure Merce, or John Cage for that matter, would agree with me.

I cannot find any musical representation of cubism aside from visual art utilizing musical instruments and musicians playing them. No composers I have discovered attempted using cubism as a source of inspiration. No musical forms appear to consciously utilize cubist principles. I have asked others to comment on cubist principles of music—no one answers.

How is it, then, that I can hear cubism almost every time I listen to free jazz? I can hear planes, dimensions, interacting perspectives, dissonance, complex rhythm, different musical schools, colors, and emotion all coming together in different performances of small, medium, and large ensembles made up of every musical instrument whether western, non-western, found objects, electronic, or uniquely made by an individual. In fact, I have been attempting to understand improvisation from so many different perspectives that my abstraction of these arguments has become a cubist expression all by itself! Lately I’ve been considering physics—Einsteinian and quantum, string theory and quantum chromodynamics—as springboards for hypothesis generation. The overarching issue for me is “where do all the notes come from?” 

My personal experience of improvisation lies in the sense that when I abandon myself to the process they come from somewhere other than my conscious decision to play particular notes. Personal example:  for years I have considered myself to be a poor player of chord changes. I get stuck on playing specific notes in a chord and can’t think quickly enough to make the changes. If the changes are simpler and I can think quickly enough, I lose something in terms of inventiveness. It is only once I have warmed up to a musical structure (a tune for the uninitiated) can I let go enough to have some fun. It is faster than thought. If it is a tune with chord changes and I let go I find new and inventive ways to play the changes. The danger for me is repetitiveness. I can start to play everything the same so different tunes begin to sound the same.  That is why I am now on the lookout for a way to structure improvisation and composition which will guide me when I take off. For a while I conceived of playing a solo as riding a wave as if the music was a wave and I was surfing it. I have also tried to expand meter by using Indian raga time such as the Tin Tal—a 16 measure segment in 4/4. If instead of 16 4/4 measures I think of it as one long measure in 4/4 the entire structure opens up. My latest infatuation has been the idea I got from string theory of superposition. That is quantum physics for allowing notes to appear by a process of probability. I also borrowed Feynman’s concept of the subatomic particle being in every potential place and speed until it appears—the wave again—when the wave crashes, or as physicists put it, when the quantum wave function collapses. This all felt soulless and didn’t allow for the spiritual or emotional to enter into the equation. Plus, there is no aesthetic I know of that doesn’t allow for human intervention—even Dali relied on the unconscious and its predilections to “determine” his dada.

Many different aspects of experience have gone into my lifetime of composition. I have borrowed from the Kabbalah, quantum physics, and jazz to compose a 12-movement piece I performed in 2019 entitled Qabbala::Entanglement. I have used the Torah and poetry to compose a double string quartet with double SATB chorus entitled Abyss. And I have played with Finale, a music software program, to write pieces that were suggestive but not totally specific about what the musical structure was. I am looking for the next muse to my music. Perhaps it will be cubism.

I’ve been rehearsing my newest compositions with the Accidental Orchestra, and the sounds are entering my consciousness which before have been mostly in my mind as intellectual exercises which are intended to invoke a certain meditative state. As I meditate on my meditation it occurs to me that there is in the music exactly what I intended, a quantum superposition of notes hovering around a musical structure that implies rather than specifies what is to come next.

They are deceptively simple, structured to be easily played, leaving plenty of room for improvisation which I encourage to be abstracted from the dense chordal dissonances I introduce. Let me attempt to get inside my musical-philosophical-quantum mind and let out what I hope happens when musicians hear this, play this, and what you as an audience hear and experience when you enter the domain of Qabbala from the point of view of quantum entanglement.

Direct experience of the soul
entanglement with all notes and musically organized sound
establishment of structure in which there are implied infinite possibilities of musical superimposition
the ultimate in associative reasoning bordering on free association
mystical breakthroughs into alternate universes

I’d better stop here so you can generate your own fields. Which you can do by listening to my initial offering by the Accidental Orchestra, the cd HELIX. https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/michaelmoss1
http://www.michaelmoss.bandcamp.com
https://michaelmoss.hearnow.com/helix

On Friday, May 18, 2018 I will be presenting some pieces from HELIX and from a suite of ten works based on the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah: I Kether–Crown/I Am, II Binah–Intelligence, and IX Yesod–Foundation/Basis. Please come to the
HELIX cd release party held in Westbeth in the

Please enter through the courtyard which is located on Bank Street between West St. and Washington St in the West Village to avoid the construction at Westbeth.
All my recent cds will be available for purchase and/or download.

We are on an adventure in superposition! Where all things are created equal and anything is possible! Held together by love where disorder and dissonance are a figment of the imagination. Or as Albert Einstein once is purported to have said, “imagination is greater than knowledge.”

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