Strange Loop


Strange Loop is a musical investigation into the self-patterning paradoxes discussed by Douglas Hofstadter in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, and elsewhere. Hofstadter coined the term "strange loop", and it refers to a type of paradox caused by self-reference.

For example:

The following sentence is false. The preceding sentence is true.

Hofstadter describes more complete "strange loops" by expanding such paradoxes into hierarchical systems in which one finds oneself back where on started. For example, consider a man "A", who marries a widow who has an adult daughter; A's father then marries this adult daughter, making A his own (step-)grandfather.

The idea is that while it is generally possible to establish the key of a tonal melody without hearing the whole melody, it is not possible to "know", in the same way, an entire 12-note row in serial music without hearing the entire row in full. The context of a 12-note row consists of itself, and therefore the row cannot be presented outside of this context. This contrasts with the tonal system, in which a melody in D major (for example) can be presented independently of the key D major, and the key D major can be presented independently of the melody.

This problem is related to the "incompleteness theorems" of Gödel, which are also discussed in depth by Hofstadter.

Day and Night, M.C. Escher
Day and Night, M.C. Escher

Strange Loop was written for Carla Rees and her ensemble Rarescale, and I'm grateful that she has performed it many times - and recorded it (see below).


9 minutes


Alto flute, guitar

First performance

13th June 2007, St Giles-in-the-Fields, London, by Rarescale



This recording of Strange Loop is by Rarescale

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