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  • Writer's picturescott kim

J. S. Bach (1981)

SYMMETRY. Reflection about a vertical axis. Looks the same in a mirror.

INSPIRATION. Appears in my book Inversions as part of a trio of inversions in tribute to the book Gödel Escher Bach.

STORY. As a pianist, I've always been drawn to Bach's music. I am particularly fond of the canons and fugues in the Well-Tempered Clavier, Musical Offering and Art of Fugue. Canons are similar to inversions — the goal in both cases is to compose an aesthetically pleasing result by following a mathematically precise rule.

     I have composed a number of canons over the years. Here is a Canon by Augmentation I composed on the theme of the Musical Offering. There are two voices, which start an octave apart. Both voices play the same notes, but the higher voice plays twice as fast as the lower voice. Notice that the higher voice completes two repetitions in the time it takes the lower voice to complete one. The exact symmetry is broken only on the last note. I wrote this canon as a gift to Douglas Hofstadter when I was helping him teach a course based on the then forthcoming book Gödel Escher Bach.

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