Could we run out of musical note combinations? (continued)

Shutterstock / Quality H

Will composers run out of new combinations of musical notes to create original melodies? Or are there endless combinations? (following)

Jeff dickens Strachan, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom

Previous responses (November 13) to this question contained some commendable arithmetic, but there was no mention of composer John Cage’s simple demonstration that the answer must be yes: there are endless combinations.

Cage provided us with his coin 4 ′ 33 ″ (4 minutes and 33 seconds), a work in three movements, for any instrument or combination of instruments, in which the ensemble does not play a single note. Instead, we are invited to witness the space thus created.

By logical extension, there must exist an infinity of other compositions, because any other work could be considered as 4 ′ 33 ″ with an infinity of different durations and an infinity of added sounds.

To answer this question – or ask a new one – email [email protected]

New Scientist Ltd retains full editorial control over published content and reserves all rights to reuse question and answer material that has been submitted by readers in any medium or in any format.

Baths and conditions of application.