Does the infinite really exist? For now, the constraints of perception may keep humanity from reaching a definitive answer to this all-encompassing question. Restricted knowledge of concepts is inherent, but this does not stop many minds around the world from attempting to grasp the anomaly of infinity. One fascinating way to experience the infinite is through a particular field in which it is overwhelmingly present. These boundless fields consist of numbers and mathematics, color, gravitational singularities, perhaps universes (Kaku), time itself, and an old cliché, human stupidity. Curiously, most of these divisions have been the source for great leaps of discovery. This paper briefly examines another way of experiencing and working with the infinite: the way of music.
Consider the following very simple thought experiment: if one number is selected from the vastness of mathematics, then divided in half continuously, is there ever a limit reached? It is a concept such as this that leads one straight into infinity. Likewise, if a musical interval of, say, 100 cents, is continuously divided in half, no limit can be reached. The same endless divisions can be said for the string of an instrument. While this is of course impractical for many modern, popular instruments, perhaps instruments in the near future could make this a practical capability, in the same way that calculators are capable of generating a staggering amount of numbers.
Every time a string vibrates or a musical tone sounds, a series of harmonics (or their close cousins, partials and overtones) instantly sounds at the same time. When harmonics are taken into account, the infinite nature of music perhaps becomes more apparent. Though the harmonic series is musical at heart, mathematicians have conceivably studied it in further detail throughout the years, and they have come to the conclusion that it is a sequence of numbers, or frequencies, that indeed extends into infinity (Weisstein). With this realization, keep in mind when listening to, or playing, music, that a representation of infinity is happening with every tone, and every rhythm, and every chord struck. Unfortunately, somewhere down the line, the harmonics become lost above or below the range of human perception. Luckily, however, any harmonic interval can be rescued back into conscious perception by mathematically locating the harmonic, then dividing it until it falls into hearing range.
Self-expression is thought of as a major goal among musicians and artists alike. In an infinite music space, self-expression could be fine-tuned in the most intricate fashion, and individuality would have the chance of becoming commonplace. Think about this: there are nearly countless ways an individual looks at, and feels about, the world. In fact, it is likely safe to say that no one in the history of humanity has been, in totality, the exact same as another. This is also true for musical tones and rhythms. With no two tones being alike, players and composers would be able to capture the most detailed sonic form of their feelings and visions. Take an example: if any note from a well-known piece of music, like Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", was altered by a mere 20 cents, it would diverge the atmosphere and feeling for the listener, albeit subtle. It is these faint differences that could bring significant assistance to those who are searching to find their own voice.
A brief look at the nature of key musical components has revealed music's plausible connection to the infinite and, consequently, everything. According to legendary saxophonist, Charlie Parker, "They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art." When the boundary line is removed from the limitless ocean of music, the art will flow like never before. Once music becomes recognized as a new member of the infinity alliance, then musicians everywhere can break away from a small planet, and go exploring out into the aural cosmos.
Kaku, Michio. Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2006. Print.
Weisstein, Eric W. "Series." Mathworld. Wolfram Research, n.d. Web. 2 March 2016. http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Series.html
Parker, Charlie. "About Charlie 'Yardbird' Parker - Quotes." CMG Worldwide. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 March 2016. http://www.cmgww.com/music/parker/about/quotes.html