[Haskell-cafe] Mozart versus Beethoven (was: Writing "Haskell For Dummies ...)

Patrick Mulder pemulder at yahoo.de
Tue Dec 12 09:16:41 EST 2006

> You're implying that there's a *more* appropriate
> forum somewhere for
> discussing analogies between music composition and
> programming
> languages? If so, I'd like to know what it is!

Yes, music and programming languages are ultimately
phenomena of our human brains/minds. Therefore, the
expression of music or algorithms touch as much
mathematics as they touch the field of philosophy (and
here the philosophy of the mind). Sometimes there are
interesting posts in comp.ai.philosophy and attempts
to discuss the semantics in Mozart or Beethoven's

> I've been thinking about this. Are there really any
> programmers who
> are like Mozart in the way you describe? 

No, and I think Dijkstra perception is a bit flawed
with respect to Mozart's compositions. Certainly,
there are very strong rewarding mechanisms in the
brain which can be activated by special circumstances
and allow to develop special capabilities (Feynman
spoke about falling in love with an idea). But it is
not highly desirable for a society to have every
member to develop radical new idea's or skills. A
species would quickly stop to reproduce if everyone
would be sitting in a room thinking about a certain
abstract subject.   

> Whereas it's conceivable to imagine somebody writing
> a piece of music
> that way, or a poem. 

I think in general it is underestimated how rare such
moments of divine inspiration are in reality. There is
this nice speech by Wislawa Szymborska about the
difficulties of inspiration in poetry
and also the late Beethoven explains this in his
music: Have a listening to the 3rd movement of his
op.106. In my view, he explains about the suffering of
a lonely genius, and then starts laughing about it
because our own nature changes all the time, and that
there is almost no way to control these changes, nor
on time that passed away or predicting times to come,
neither a judgement whether he is happy or not with
this fact of life- I find it a very powerful
observation on how learning works.

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