I’m drawn to minimalism of the non-linear sort, mostly for the phenomenological feeling it inspires within me of the mathematical sublime, a feeling that Nico Muhly’s Mothertongue is particularly good at evoking. In fact, I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to place Muhly in an esteemed pantheon including people like Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Michael Nyman, even if he is still very much in his formative phase. The question then is, what is this feeling of the mathematical sublime and why is Mothertongue good at eliciting it? The concept of the sublime has a long history, but I’m mainly referring to Immanuel Kant’s understanding of it in his third Critique, in which he explains the feeling of the mathematical sublime as a kind of failure of aesthetic estimation, an inability to grasp natural phenomena of a great magnitude, or in other words, the mathematical sublime is a feeling generated by a kind of dissonance between our senses and our Reason.
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