As people who work in law we're used to squeezing every last drop of significance from a fact or a word, framing it this way or that way so that a particular facet glints. Even the presence, absence or location of a single comma can be a matter of moment (though the significance of the curls in "comma cases" is exaggerated by the disingenuously wondering press). So we know the importance of the small in ways that others might find hard to appreciate.
For example, in these times of political disaffection (are there ever other times?) you'll hear people say that their vote doesn't count, so why bother voting. This, if taken literally, is sadly ironic of course, because the one and only thing a vote does do is count. It takes an act of imagination, aided by much reason, to feel connected to an aggregated result by having caused one fifty-thousandth of it.
Curiously, we get more of a kick out of the many-made-one, the aggregates — those emergent phenomena that feel to be, and in an important sense are, arbitrary events, among the world's "givens." The price of a stock in the market, for example, or survey results.
In the era of big, and often free, data, it's increasingly possible to conjure up these chimeras, these "things" that are only crowds of other things in the way that clouds are only a great many drops of water, and to see significance in them. Sometimes the aim is merely idle curiosity or even mild pleasure. This is where we're going with the fillip today.
Hatnote Listen has a page — Listen to Wikipedia — that sums in real time the number of changes that individuals are making to Wikipedia and presents these as circles of differing diameters depending on the number. Moreover, these circles cause musical notes:
The sounds indicate addition to (bells) or subtraction from (strings) a Wikipedia articles, and the pitch changes according to the size of the edit. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots.
So here the aggregation happens in two senses, first in determining the size of the circle and the musical pitch, and then, in a serially — which is one way that music aggregates notes. As you listen you'll find yourself treating the sounds as music, which is to say, trying to make musical sense of the progression. This is no Bach and neither is it (even) Hindemith. A lazy Colin McPhee with a gamelan, perhaps. Or only wind chimes.
But what about disaggregation? There's that pesky comma again. Or some crucial misspelling that changes the meaning. We know about these. It happens in music too. So having looked at emergent "music," it's only fitting that we spend a moment fussing the single musical note, which in this case is either an F or a B-flat. And the issue arises with respect to Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, where at the start of the slow movement there's a flute passage of four notes, one of which is in dispute.
The disagreement is aired in a recent New York Review of Books piece, "Tchaikovsky's 'Wrong Note'" by Kirill Gerstein. Seems that celebrated pianist Stephen Hough believes there was a transcription error, either by the master himself or by a subsequent copyist, and that the received F was intended to be a B-flat. Gerstein presents the case for retaining the F. The article has online sound files for both versions, done on a piano, as well as four files of historic performances of the movement in question. I've linked here to the very brief disputed passage, as set out in the article; the note to listen for is the third of four.
First with the F:
And then with the B-flat: