WINDOWLESS MONADS – Keyboard Improvisation | AsteriskedMusic.Com

Windowless Monads

Gottfried Leibniz was a German philosopher who was a contemporary of Isaac Newton. He theorized the existence of Monads. Monads are an object of theory; they are supposed to be particles somewhat similar to our modern concept of the atom (with some significant differences).


The Theory

"Portrait of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz," by Bernhard Christoph Francke, taken from [Wikipedia.Com]; this image is in the public domain. This is a Leibniz portrait. Leibniz theorized the existence of Monads.
“Portrait of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz,” by Bernhard Christoph Francke, taken from [Wikipedia.Com]; this image is in the public domain.
These particles are the underlying universal substrate. They are self-contained and indestructible. They each contain within themselves the essence of the entire universe, much like a kind of divine genetic code. Nevertheless, they also are distinct from one another, each having different attributes, resulting in the vast variety that we can see in nature.

What he suggests is that the universe is a self-contained thing and that what we experience as a sequence of space and time, is really a coherent whole. He described monads as “windowless;” meaning, not being open to outside forces in any way. They do not take in or emit from themselves anything from or into anything outside of themselves. In this sense, they are similar to the modern atomic idea, in that we now theorize that atoms interact with other atoms, but under normal circumstances, atoms do not change in their fundamental nature.

Leibniz’s theory portrays a deterministic view of nature that, in some ways, anticipated Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, in that it suggests that the universe is structured in a non-linear way.


What I Find Provocative About this Idea

In absolute terms, modern science has largely invalidated the Theory of Monads. Nevertheless, I find certain aspects of this idea interesting. For one thing, his idea is really quite fractal. This idea that the further you go down into the micro, the more the macro reveals itself is a very spiritual idea, and I think there is something to that. For example, atoms resemble solar systems and galaxies in terms of their basic geometric structure. That’s interesting. The idea that each particle has a kind of genetic code that reflects the universe as a whole – that’s interesting, too.


Some Notes on “Windowless Monads”

This piece uses an octatonic palate to portray monadic “windowlessness.” The octatonic scale is “windowless,” in the sense that it has a completely repetitive structure; whole-tone – half-tone, whole-tone – half-tone, all the way up the entire octave. Unlike tonal scales, which have seven scale degrees, the “octatonic” scale has eight. The seven scale degrees in tonal music give it a kind of built-in tension that seeks resolution. The octatonic scale seeks no resolution because it does not require it. It is naturally self-exploratory and does not need to come to any rest. In this way, it is “self-contained,” in the same way that monads are theorized to be.

However, I also wanted to portray my “windowless monads” as causing ephemera of time-bound existence. I show this by having the piece transition in and out of tonal sections. True to the monadic theory, the piece ends in a self-contained way – by returning to the original octatonic riff.

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