Music in the Stars – A Book Review – Anne Katherine

Over spring break I had the opportunity to read a fascinating book by Pulitzer Prize winner Douglas R. Hofstadter entitled                           Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. Covering everything from patterns found in music to Zen Buddhism to computer science this narrative ebbs and flows with the authors consciousness in an enjoyable, albeit difficult read. Through the years the book has baffled book store employees as to its correct placement and hence has appeared in sections including religion, biology, philosophy, computer science, and mathematics. When asked about his message, Hofstadter describes the essence of GEB as, “a book that shows how math, art, and music are really all the same thing at their core.” 

As you may imagine, this description alone was enough to pull me in and motivate me to read for hours on end. Within his dense narration the author inserts short anecdotes illustration his points thought the fictional characters Mr. Tortoise, Achilles, and others. This brief interruption in the usual train of consciousness, as it often seems, allows the reader to absorb the authors meaning in chunks and gain insight to his purpose. The characters debate logic, consciousness, and our very being in the context of Hostadter’s last thought in a delightfully playful way. 

True to its title, Hostadter relates many of his ideas to the artwork of Escher, the music of Bach, and the mathematics of Gödel. One of the aspects I found most relevant was the idea of a musical canon being translated into conversation, art, and math. I had not previously considered the idea of applying this to my project and my mind is reeling with possibilities of multi-layer pieces and even the prospect of combining data sets. I believe that his analysis on patterns in music will be incredibly useful to me as I dive deeper into composition. 

In other news, I am working with Data Set #2 to create chords on CodePen as well as modifying the data from Set #1 to a usable format. The chords are going fairly well but sound dreadful. Sigh. It’s a work in progress. All and all I am very pleased with my progress and looking forward to continually working to create…well…something. Until next time! Cheers! Image 

The well known cover art of Gödel, Escher, Bach

“Art of the Day: Gödel, Escher, Bach.” Riverrun Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.


2 thoughts on “Music in the Stars – A Book Review – Anne Katherine

  1. margaretjhaviland

    What a book. How did you come across it? After all its twenty years since it was published. How well has it survived time? I always enjoy books that relate directly to what I am working on or don’t but help me think differently about an unrelated topic. Have you emailed Dr. Hofstadter? I wonder what he would make of your work? What ideas do you find most useful? Are there or parts of his thinking you question or want to challenge?

    1. annekatherineb Post author

      GEB was recommended to me by T. Victoria, one of the fabulous librarians at Westtown.

      The book has survived quite well, especially considering its partial focus on computer programing, all of the ideas are talked about in broad terms that are still quite applicable today.

      I have not emailed Dr. Hofstadter, however it would be interesting to do so and I will definitely consider it.

      The idea I found most useful is the idea of connection between all things and patters coming up in unexpected places.

      There are very few parts of the book that I would challenge as Dr. Hofstadter does a remarkable job of presenting an unbiased view of all of the topics he addresses. I, however, am not a fan of M. C. Escher. His work, in my opinion, is not at all pleasant to look at.


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