July 15, 2014

NY Times exposes shocking musical fraud!

In describing Mahler's 9th Symphony - not a particular performance of it, but the composition itself - Anthony Tommasini informs us that this work "begins and ends with slow movements of nearly 30 minutes each."*
      Without imposing extravagant interpretations on the meaning of familiar English words, I take it for granted that any event lasting 25 minutes or less cannot be meaningfully  described as being "nearly 30 minutes".  (It is an arithmetical fact that 25 is as near to 20 as it is to 30.)  Which brings me to the shocking discovery - thanks to Dr. Tommasini - that some of our cherished recorded live performances of Mahler's 9th are actually examples of musical fraud because their timings (in the last movement) make it impossible for them to qualify as performances of Mahler's music: 

Bruno Walter & Vienna Philharmonic (1938): 18 min 12 sec
George Szell & Cleveland Orchestra (1969): 21 min 30 sec
Otto Klemperer & Vienna Philharmonic (1968): 24 min 11 sec

Of course, some may object to the charges of musical fraud against these three conductors by pointing out that two of them (Walter, Klemperer) were Mahler's friends and disciples, while the third (Szell) was already a young performing conductor and pianist in Vienna when Mahler was still alive.   Alas, this feeble attempt to protect the reputation of the above maestros is laughably unconvincing.  After all, when it comes to how long a movement of a Mahler symphony must last, who would you believe: some baton-waving Mahler's pals who probably didn't even have college degrees, or chief music critic for the New York Times who has a doctorate in music?

* Tommasini, A., "Mahler's Haunting Ruminations at the Abyss", New York Times, June 6, 2008, italics mine.

July 1, 2014

What's in a name?

When two or more mathematicians, working collaboratively or independently, make essential contributions to solving a particular mathematical problem, the result is traditionally given a hyphenated name, such as the Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser theorem in dynamical systems theory, or the Fokker-Planck equation in statistical mechanics.
I wonder what would have happened to this naming tradition if the German-American mathematician Jürgen Moser and the Dutch mathematical physicist Adriaan Fokker had proved the same important theorem.  Just put yourself in the shoes of a mathematics professor who has to announce to his class:

Today we will be discussing  the Moser-Fokker theorem.