We had String Theory guru Brian Greene here last week. He met with our composers to explore strategies for breakthrough creative thinking. Each of the students gave an account of a cognitive leap in composition. Some reported better production under stressful conditions, others preferred to establish a very relaxed atmosphere. The common denominator was the ability to see past the details and find the larger patterns.

He also spent a little time giving (necessarily) superficial explanations of string theory, and how it differs and overlaps with chaos theory and fractal theory. He has a wonderful knack for grounding erudite topics in terms anyone can grasp. I know I came away with a clearer understanding of how these concepts relate (and don’t relate) to one another.

I hadn’t realized that Greene’s father was a composer (in addition to being a high school dropout and a vaudeville performer). Greene fils had a number of insights to share, although he was careful not to push the connections between composition and creativity in physics too much. He made it clear that he tended to prefer ideas that gave new perspectives to old notions. “Anyone can do something novel,” he said, “can you do something novel within strict limitations?”

Unfortunately, I had to slip out after the first hour to attend to other business. I understand that a politely contentious discussion ensued about the nature of existence. “It would be nice to believe in an afterlife and a soul,” Greene stated in his typically forthright manner, “but they don’t exist.”

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