Muzikologija (2013-01-01)

Black Swans and Many Worlds: Contemporary models in music, the arts and ideas

  • Barry Barbara

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2013, no. 14
pp. 201 – 234


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Black Swans and Many Worlds are new models to help explain musical structures, and by extension, events in the social environment and in internal human experience. Many Worlds takes its departure point from quantum physics, and especially the work of Hugh Everett III, who used the defining point of a measurement in the sub-atomic world as initiating alternative courses of action. Everett extrapolated this idea to the macro-world: a defining point may initiate multiple outcomes, each with its own character and events, as parallel worlds. One application of this model is to consider musical works within a genre as Many Worlds. Black Swans derive from Nassim Taleb, who proposes that social, political, and in fact all aspects of today’s world are not understandable by logical processes or incremental change but are often rocked by extreme, unpredictable shocks. If Many Worlds provide new ways of thinking about potentiality, probability and innovation, Black Swans arrest us in our tracks by eruptions that threaten to derail contemporary life, and with it, music, the arts and ideas.