Music and Mathematics

Imagine – Think – Reason

I was taking a course on how to teach music to adults (why?!) and when we would talk about lesson plans, the teacher emphasised that we had to incorporate language, maths and ICT concepts and activities in the lessons. We discussed about the connection on music and maths and everyone else agreed that it revolves around the topic of counting rhythms and dividing note values into bars. That’s not it! This is only one tiny granule of the whole concept of music and maths, it merely touches only the surface of it.

Music and Mathematics may also be the study of how sound is created and organised. The fundamentals of instrument tuning and creating a sound electronically involve mathematical equations, logarithms, frequencies, adding up sound waves, organising rations of the frequencies, and so on. And finding or coming up with the pattern of the sound wave, arranging the sound into patterns, adding or dividing, multiplying and subtracting from the basic formula of the sound wave and then arranging the new sounds into patterns, so eventually we could create the music (put in simplistic terms). I’ll call this the “physical study of music and maths” as one can almost touch the sound during the process. You can see the wave form, the equations, you can listen to the differences and how it finally becomes what you desire. Perhaps this talk, by Scott Rickard may give a small insight to this topic (Scott Rickard: The beautiful math behind the world’s ugliest music, filmed September 2011 at TEDxMIA)

How the philosophy of Music and Maths speaks to me is a little bit more abstract or intangible and Roger Antonsen‘s, (TEDtalk Roger Antonsen: Math is the hidden secret to understanding the world, filmed January 2015 at TedxOslo) talk explains it very well. It’s about understanding the world around us. The connection between maths and the world for me is music. The reason is because I can apply my knowledge of music in every day problems, tasks, philosophies, social interactions, learning, teaching and so on… As the video suggests, mathematics is a process of finding and creating patterns, music translates patterns into sound giving them another dimension.

Mathematics and Music (kindly) force people to always be thinking to find solutions or ways to avoid errors or undesired conclusions, study from the past and create something new. And that is my fundamental point. It’s easy to be given a formula and apply it on a specific task to come up with an answer, but how easy is it to come up with that formula relying on knowledge of the subject? Through both subjects the brain is trained to be consciously seeking information through past knowledge and apply it on new grounds. With music one can immediately listen to ‘it’ as well. When teaching music my primary goal is to assist the brain to create more connections as the brain usually keeps the connections it needs and “forgets” about others made in the past. There is extended research on this subject.

Mathematics is explained as an abstract science and I find Music to be an abstract science. The subjects are so abstract that give meaning to anything they are applied to. They are an idea, a concept. What breaks the walls and the boundaries of the brain. Something that can not be physically felt but exists because it is emotionally felt. Meant to elevate the soul and ground our existence. By knowing this, you can apply your knowledge to understanding the rest of your world. Not everyone will become mathematicians and not everyone will become musicians. What everyone should aim to become is rounded thinking adults capable of living in harmony, finding solutions, being adaptable and progressing as beings.

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2017

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