MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Happy Palindrome Day

It’s taken a little over a thousand years to arrive at today’s calendrical palindrome: 02-02-2020. Last time was 11-11-1111–909 years ago (using the eight-digit format).

The French composer Olivier Messiaen found special significance in the palindrome. When looking at the rhythmic parameter, for example, he developed structures based on “non-retrogradable rhythms,” as he termed them.

The German musicologist Siglind Bruhn explores the implications for Messiaen of palindromic structures: “Rhythmic palindromes are interesting above all for their spiritual significance. In the realm of human experience, the irreversibility that defines all acts, be they physical or linguistic, the course of a day or a life, and the expected execution of a plan, are of a quality intrinsically different from reminiscences, regrets, nostalgia, and other acts or feelings turned toward the past.”

from Messiaen’s Contemplations of Covenant and Incarnation

Filed under: miscellaneous, Olivier Messiaen

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