Grains of Sand on an Imaginary Beach
I have been recently contemplating an interesting theory that has been presented to me, resulting in a chain of after-thoughts leading to this thesis. I will firstly explain this theory, then continue through the series of after-thoughts which lead to my final observation.
During a recent debate, it was suggested that as space is thought to be infinite, there may theoretically be an infinite number of planets. With an infinite number of planets, there must then be an infinite number of possibilities. Therefore, it is highly likely to have a planet exactly the same as this one; the same buildings and people exist, the same landscapes and scenery exist; an exact replica of this world, including an identical series of events that have lead to this world being the way it is currently.
I completely disagree with the above theory, but this reasons are irrelevant. However, while contemplating this theory, I worked out that on this basis, there must be a planet with each possible variation as well. So there could hypothetically be a planet that is absolutely identical, except that there is one grain of sand less on a random beach.
It was on this thought that I then started to consider the sand itself. It is not difficult to visualise a beach; we take the sand, the water, the grass, the trees, etc. each as individual objects. However, most of these objects consist of a collection of objects – the sand is a collection of sand grains, the grass is a collection of blades of grass, etc. So when we visualise a completely different beach, there would realistically be an entirely different amount of grains of sand, yet we still view the sand as an individual object, we do not consider the vast amounts that make-up this complete object; it is almost as if the collection of sand is an entity that is easier to view than each grain of sand that it consists of. The same thought applies to a huge variety of things; leaves on a tree, bricks on a house, grass in a field, etc. When we think of all these objects, we do not try to contemplate how many leaves are on the tree, how many bricks there are on the house or how many blades of grass are in the field, even though they are the fundamental basis of the objects themselves.
A string quartet follows the same principle. We view the string quartet as a whole object, which just happens to consist of four stringed instruments, rather than viewing it as four individual players, each with their own role and requirement.
My recent composition takes advantage of this principle. Each individual performer is given their own personal challenge; a unique role that is applicable only to their instrument, but in context with the other instruments it forms the overall string quartet as an entity. So rather than this piece being composed for “string quartet”, it has more specifically been composed for four individual performers in synchronisation with each other.