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KotoJazz 44: “A New Dialogue with Nature”

My apologies in advance for this “detour” from art and the nature of gardening and koto jazz music. This “KotoJazz 44” blog entry is about the revolutionary nature of Nobel prize winning physicist Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ and “Man’s Dialogue with Nature” in their international bestseller, “Order Out of Chaos”. Though published a while ago in the 80s, it could not be more relevant than today, including the topics of this blog. As Alvin Toffler puts it in the book’s preface, “it is the processes associated with randomness, openness that lead to higher levels of organization.” In all structures associated with life and life forms, even social life, before change occurs, it is forced toward a non-equilibrium state and approaches a critical moment or bifurcation point where it transforms/ morphs into a “new path of development” that is not predeterminable.

This is also very true of creativity in music and art. It sums up modern music and art in so many ways, including modern jazz and especially koto jazz. Koto jazz may have some predetermined melody and style, but its origins are rooted in the very musical expression of nature. Out of the “randomness, openness” of nature, and our open, often random exploration of music and sound, we can connect with the core of our own Nature. This is the ultimate goal of Koto jazz music. For me, patterns of nature unpredictably and indeterminably morph into new patterns, at times interrupted by chaotic resonance, then transforming into a new efflorescent chime or melodic sequence. We are the heirs of this new perspective on art, science, and life.

Prigogine and Stengers’ views reach into all areas of our social, political and business life. Take the management theories of John Morgridge, the former chairman of Cisco Systems, as an example. Probably a key period of my professional life was having a sit down dinner/ interview with Morgridge back in the mid-90s. A key point to this article I wrote about him was about the randomness and openness of putting together project managers, engineers, creative designers, and others (without titles) needed to complete a business project. Over time, the open organization evolves and forms its own natural organization where at times the engineer or the designer leads the group rather than the business manager.

The way Morgridge described it in the interview is reminiscent of the brilliant book written by UC Berkeley professor Ori Braufman and Rod A. Beckstrom, “The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations”, and Braufman’s more recent book (2013), “The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success”. You cut a starfish in half, it can grow into two starfish. Prigogine and Stengers also “undermine conventional views of thermodynamics by showing that, under non-equilibrium conditions, at least, entropy may produce, rather than degrade, order, organization”– and therefore life itself. This is true of business, society, nature, music and art, with music and art leading the way. It is one of many reasons why we must support the arts– it is the very fabric that shapes who we are. Koto jazz tunes can offer the mind and spirit not just an escape but a solution, an order out of the natural chaos that precedes it.

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