Beauty is Where You Find It
Although it’s embarrassing at times to admit my lackadaisical Netflix viewing habits, it’s going to be downright painful typing the following: I watched the so-called psychological thriller The Number 23 last night. I only bring this up because, besides the transparent, over-explained plot—any rational person can pick up on the whole “who did it” thing within the first ten minutes—the numerological mythology in which the film is steeped reminded me a little of music theory classes. (This doesn’t explain, however, why I actually kept watching such a god-awful film all the way to the end. That’s a mystery that shall remain forever unsolved.)
For those of you lucky enough to have never seen The Number 23, here’s a little sum up: Jim Carrey plays a dog catcher named Walter Sparrow who begins to read an ersatz-autobiography called The Number 23 penned by, ahem, Topsy Kretts (just say it out loud and groan to yourself). The further Sparrow reads, the more obsessed he becomes, due to the fact that the book’s fictional main character has a past that so closely resembles his own, minus the part when Kretts, you know, murders his kink-loving girlfriend. Anyway, the gateway into Sparrow believing that the book is actually written about him, and in fact is not a work of fiction, is the realization that the digits 2 and 3 appear everywhere in his life: his name, birth date, home address, and the list goes on and on to ridiculous lengths. Eventually, 23 spells out his destiny and ultimate demise—yawn.
In retrospect, I wish I had seen this film back when I was attempting to analyze Morton Feldman’s Piano Piece 1952 for a term paper. All those harebrained methods used to make connections to the number 23 would have been inspiring at the very least, if not truly helpful when put to use in this musical situation. Seriously though, has anyone out there successfully cracked the code behind the aforementioned Feldman piece? When I delved into its monophonic simplicity—single notes evenly distributed over time—I found it to be perhaps the most evenly distributed random string of intervals ever created. It seemed to have no rhyme or reason, which is why really I needed The Number 23. Despite the fact that Feldman never injected Piano Piece 1952 with some sort of grand schematic, theory students can and will impose their own onto the piece—you can always find what you are looking for in randomness. Maybe we can get Nicole, the musicology major on Beauty and the Geek, to sort everything out for us, but more on her next week…