Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Grateful Dead

  1. Jan 19, 2010 #1
    Anyone here a dead head? There's really no point to this post, so i won't be surprised if it gets no replies. That said, I was listening to The Weather Report Suite earlier today, and I was suddenly overcome with (albeit vague) application of fourier analysis to the interpretation of this song.

    Which really got me wondering, is there anybody on here who knows what I'm talking about. Since there are few enough people in the world who like the dead, and few enough people in the world who know what fourier analysis is. Like I said this thread has no point.

    However I think it is particularly beautiful. For the mathematically inclined individual, to be able to find math in art and inversely to be able to appreciate math in a non-academic, non rigorous way. To appreciate math for its beauty in describing things which cannot be described by words. And how art can do something similar, to communicate things which words cannot. Like I said I don't see anybody replying to this thread and I doubt many people will have any idea what I'm talking about.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2010 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Some context would help - :cool:

    Interpretation of the lyrics or tune?

    The Dead had an interesting approach to music. Definitely a definitive group of the time and place.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Jan 19, 2010 #3
    Here is a bit of the way I interpret the song, I will add more when I have more time.

    The beginning of the final movement asks,

    "Tell me why, summers fade and roses die? The answer came, the wind and rain"

    Most things can be described as periodic phenomena. Even aperiodic phenomena are just periodic with infinite period. Why does one thing exhibit this? Because everything does. This explanation continues throughout the song.


    "summer leaves are blown away. What remains? The wind and rain."

    Season come and go but what remains is the cyclical nature of these things.

    "And like a desert spring, my lover comes and spread her wings, knowing like a song that's born to soar the sky, flowing till the rivers all are dry, growing the loving in her eyes"

    Love comes like the spring, but the period of his love is much longer than the period of the seasons. Flowing till the rivers all are dry is a way of saying the period of this love is very long, as long as it will take for all the rivers to be dry.

    The wind and rain in this song are the archetypical periodic phenomena from which all other periodic phenomena spring, like representing periodic phenomena with a fourier series. The wind and rain play the role of sine and cosine.
  5. Jan 19, 2010 #4
    I must add my favorite line

    "what shall we say, shall we call it by a name? As well to count the angels dancing on a pin"

    Note that the angels dancing on a pin is a reference to Thomas Aquinas and philosophy at that time.

    For me it conjures a memory I have from a long time ago. Me and a good friend were in a psychedelic mood. We became fascinated by what we called at the time "the intrinsic paradox of the universe." This referred to idea that from a certain point of view, everything you can think of has a certain quality which is exactly the same as everything else in the universe. The feeling of understanding god, if you will, and seeing the connection of everything great and small, the feeling of infinite deja vu. The feeling that everything is exactly the same as everything else, whatever those things are. But as soon as you give a specific example of how two things are connected, you have destroyed the grand generality of that feeling, and you have lost that all knowing understanding of the universe.Thinking about it now, that infinite deja vu comes from the cyclical phenomena of the universe. The creation of everything from the repetition of previous things at various frequencies.

    Shall we call the majesty of the universe by a name? No, that is as hopeless as trying to count how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2010
  6. Jan 19, 2010 #5
    Any state of the universe can be represented as a linear superposition of other states of the universe.
  7. Jan 19, 2010 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    The universe is a blend of symmetry and asymmetry, of periodicity and aperiodicity, of harmony and discord.

    It is what it is.

    Sometimes one has to stop analyzing and lie back and just enjoy, marvel and appreciate it all.
  8. Jan 19, 2010 #7
    Absolutely :) Btw never heard that raspberry jam delta-v before, that's some sweet stuff :)
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook