Re: [Plants = Infinity]

Jeff Miller (
Tue, 12 May 1998 12:04:49 -0500

While I agree that the world around is fraught with many amazing sources of
inspiration (too many, actually; I'll never catch up with the ideas
spinning through my head) I have to disagree with the concept of infinite
number of combinations. A similar situation was dealt with in Spider
Robinson's short story "Melancholy Elephants": while there may be an
infinite number of note combinations possible, the number that are pleasant
to the human ear, even given the vagaries of human taste, is definitely
finite. Some are so pleasing that the same note relationships may be
played in several songs, because people like them better (i.e. blues). Any
student of dance history can see the similarities in forms, as they grow
either from or in reaction to each other. And "experimental" forms, such
as butoh, or performance groups such as Goat Island in Chicago, are testing
the waters, pushing the envelope to see what our current cultural aesthetic
will accept.

Or am I wrong? Do you (addressing the collective list) think that while
the mathematical processes indicate infinite possibilities, that human
aesthetic senses are also infinite? Considering the tremendous inertia of
tradition, it seems we have a hard time accepting new forms. We still
probably teach more ballet than modern, and how many contact improv classes
are regularly offered (sorry, personal sore spot there)?

On another note, I agree that the plant world has a lot to offer, along
with mathematics. One inspiration came from a horticulture student, who
described for me the concept of alinear, as opposed to linear, geometry.
In a nutshell, instead of creating shapes by drawing lines between points
you create shapes by causing "growth" around a central point. A.J. Niehaus
and I used this a few months ago in our piece "Farandolae" to suggest a
cooling effect to harsh, angular images, and while no one used the term
"alinear", the feelings communicated to the audience were right on the

Let's hear it for a liberal education! Specialization is for insects...and
I think that your decision is great! A physicist becoming a dancer will
greatly enrich everyone you come into contact with. Maybe more dancers
should become physicists...

Generalizationally yours,
"All seen reality is beautiful. It's man's thoughts that break the universe."