Although Sudoku seems to have been a worldwide addiction for about two years, I only caved in to the phenomenon nine days ago when my flight was delayed at the Syracuse airport. Strangely, my cohorts in the Box are all somewhat disappointed by my new obsession, e.g. Randy: “FJO, you’ve finally gone popular culture; you’re just like everybody else now.”
Indeed, it seems like every other person around is playing this numbers game. But there’s something else in the back of my head as I rummage through each perplexing puzzle which is probably not so mainstream: those 9×9 no-repeat number grids are actually a form of, you guessed it, serialism. In fact, I just discovered there’s a 12×12 version called Monster Sudoku (a.k.a. Dodeka Sudoku) which uses letters in addition to numbers. Now, if only those letters and numbers were replaced by chromatic pitches, we might have finally figured out a way to make twelve-tone music a hit with the general public.
Nowadays, after years of negative publicity, even some of the formerly staunchest advocates of dodecaphony have publicly distanced themselves from serial techniques—i.e. “I don’t really use tone rows in my music,” etc.—fearing, of course, that admitting to such a compositional method would make their music seem too erudite. Ever the contrarian, all that critical vitriol had the reverse effect on me: it made me eager to explore combinatorial hexachords. But now, we avatars of combinatoriality have a new way to promote our music: “Just think of it as sonic Sudoku.”