Complexity

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII (1913)

The simple mind does not like change, which it may resist to the point of self-annihilation. The ability to acknowledge, appreciate and embrace the complexity of systems has always been a valuable attribute.

In the developed world today it is essential. In my lifetime, we have gone from national economies to a global economy, completely upsetting the balances in political economies across the world. In the 1950s and 1960s, citizens, using their power in democratically elected governments, could exert control over the economic forces surrounding their lives. That is no longer the case. Today, partly because of the instant worldwide information exchange made possible by the internet, corporations can relocate to another country quickly and with relative ease. As a result, they demand favorable economic treatment, and elected national “leaders” are practically required to acquiesce to their demands. The locus of power has shifted from national governments (politics, in which citizens have power)  to large multi-national corporations (economics, in which citizens do not have power), with all the attendant consequences: income redistribution that starves the middle class, insulation of giant corporations from reasonable rules and regulations to ensure that they act responsibly, and a progressive  political shift in favor of an increasingly radical right wing. If this situation persists – and I see no evidence that it will not, the income level of the average person will level out across the world. People in the United States, where incomes for the middle class had long been historically high, will not like it but unless we can find a way to regain control over economic systems, that result is inevitable.

And that is the good news. The bad news is that the average international yearly wage and standard of living will decline, relative to what it had been. This must and will occur unless corporate power is brought under control. A nation, even one as large and powerful as the United States, is virtually powerless to do anything about it, because if she treats corporations less favorably than another country is willing to do, that corporation soon will be operating overseas.

You will not hear any of that in the political discourse in the United States today. The issues are too complex and the challenges too daunting for most people. The changes that have occurred during the lives of every voter who is alive today overwhelm our capacity to respond to them. The problem is not hard to see. People see it but do not fully understand it, and most especially do not know what to do about it. So politicians continue to speak as though this was still the middle of the 20th century, because that is the system people understand: the one that prevailed when the United States sat atop the world. All of this is a product of overwhelming complexity. Unless we address these matters like responsible adults, I fear that the United States, and the world economy, is in for calamitous times.

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Milton Babbitt was "a Composer Who Gloried in Complexity" and "extended Schoenberg's serial organisation of pitch structure to other parameters, including rhythm, dynamics and instrumentation. . ." He "used his knack for mathematics to create a modern musical language that was eloquently complex, fearlessly dissonant and so dense that even critics sometimes struggled to explain its importance . . ." His compositions include:

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