I don’t know if there are any other fans of the CBS TV show Numb3rs out there, but I and my family are devotees. There was an odd, throw-off sort of line in last Friday’s episode, in which something (in an otherwise mathematical conversation) was likened to a “topos approach to Bach’s music,” to which another character commented, “See, I told you it was complicated.” This caught me off guard because
1) the idea of musical topic, as Leonard Ratner has formulated it, derives from the Greek word topos;
2) those of us who had the real Ratner treatment at Stanford began with some exercises in Bach preludes, identifying topics etc., before going on to use those tools in other music (Bach cantatas, Viennese classical music etc.); and
3) I believe that “topos approach” means something else in mathematics, something I probably could not even begin to understand, but if so I’m wondering how the devil Bach’s music came into it, in comment that was both unmotivated and un-followed-up.
Any ideas? As a Ratner disciple, I had the odd sense that aliens were trying to communicate with me without being noticed, or something on that order.
On to the City of the Angels! Very appropriate, given the setting of Numb3rs.