Year: 2021

Instrumentation: Soprano, Fl, Cl, Trp, Trb, Perc, Pno, Egtr, 2 Vlns, Vla, Vcl, Cb

First performance by Israeli Contemporary Players, Einat Aronstein (Soprano), conductor: Zsolt Nagy - 15.07.2021, Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Israel)

Other performances:

  • Ensemble Modern, Einat Aronstein (Soprano), conductor: David Niemann - 01.10.2021, Prinzregententheater, Munich (Germany)
  • Ensemble Modern, Einat Aronstein (Soprano), conductor: David Niemann - 02.10.2021, Alte Oper Frankfurt (Germany)


"Rationale" for Soprano and Ensemble tries to deal with the boundaries of the "rational" in music through texts by Maimonides from the 12th century about Rationality and its limitations. It deals with the human attempt to find patterns in the continuum of the "real", the failure in identifying such recurrences and the way we deal with the ungraspable complexity of reality. The text in the work contains the first 109 digits of the decimal approximation of square root of two as well as a quote from Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah, in which Maimonides attempts to find a rational approximation to this irrational number (actually an approximation of ?5000, which is 50?2 - the approximation is seventy and five sevens, which corresponds to a 99/70 approximation of the square root of two). In the end, Maimonides concludes that the inability to reach a good approximation is not a disadvantage but rather that this is the nature of arithmetic:

"But a square area that has right angles, will have the size of five thousand cubits. One could not know the side of that area but rather only its approximation. This is since five thousand cubits is a size that does not converge, but can be approximated as seventy and five sevens cubits. [...] Because we will never come to the knowledge of the amount that does not converge, only to its approximation, and it is not a disadvantage in our opinion, because this is the nature of arithmetic." Maimonides commentary on Mishnah Eruvin 2 5 (Approximate translation by the composer)

The relation between an irrational number in "nature" and its approximation is also realized musically, in the form of the difference between the tritone interval (frequency ratio of ?2) and the 10/7 ratio between the tenth and the seventh partials in the overtones series. Maimonides's acknowledgment of the limited capabilities of human reason, as well as acknowledging that it is not a disadvantage but a basic and even desirable feature of human nature, was the main inspiration for the musical structure. In the piece, even if patterns and structures can sometimes be identified, the "natural laws" of the musical world as a whole cannot be deciphered. The work ends with another quote of Maimonides from his book "Guide for the Perplexed" which exemplifies his modesty when attempting to rationally understand nature: "Do not imagine that these most difficult problems can be thoroughly understood by any one of us. This is not the case. At times the truth shines so brilliantly that we perceive it as clear as day. Our nature and habit then draw a veil over our perception, and we return to a darkness almost as dense as before. We are like those who, though beholding frequent flashes of lightning, still find themselves in the thickest darkness of the night." Guide for the Perplexed - Preface (translated by Friedlander, 1903)