Coleridge on Math; Music for “Kubla Khan”

I have been coping with computer disasters of astonishing magnitude over the last week or so, but I had to share this wonderful quote with you. Leave it to a poet to tell the truth so very vividly!

“I have often been surprised, that Mathematics, the Quintessence of Truth, should have found admirers so few and so languid– Frequent consideration and minute scrutiny have at length unraveled the cause– Viz– That, though Reason is feasted, Imagination is starved: whilst Reason is luxuriating in its proper Paradise, Imagination is wearily traveling over a dreary desert.” (From a letter written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to his brother George, March 31, 1791. He follows this quote with a very funny poem on math.)

Coleridge’s images tend to stick in my mind, and I don’t always care for them, but if you like his classic “Kubla Kahn,” I think you’ll enjoy Juergen Matthias Shroeder’s website with an original symphony inspired by the poem. Shroeder provides an illustrated trip through “Kubla Khan,” with clips of the symphony along the way. He explains which instruments are used, and how each illustrates a portion of the poem. It’s a wonderful lesson in how art, music, and poetry are intertwined.

Read more on “Kubla Khan.”

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