Music and Maths..

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by BrianT, Jul 10, 2006.

  1. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    When I was choosing my A-levels (years ago!), lots of people told me "Hmm, maths and music they go together, don't they?"

    There's no shortage of people turning music into maths, e.g. but the only attempts I've heard turning maths into music produces stuff I don't find musically satisfying (12-tone, anyone?). I'm not sufficiently expert to say it's bad - but I do know I don't like it. D'you think there really is a connection between maths and music?
  2. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Lots of connections between mathematics and music. If you look at time and rhythm, you can see that it's all really fractions and ratios. One of my favourite composers, Harrisson Birtwistle always composes with his 'bible' close by; a faded excercise book full of formulae for time relationships. Pitch is another aspect of music where numerical codes are very important. I'm not entirely sure how it works, but equal temperament is based on a formula discovered by Pythagoras.

    There are probably people out there who could explain it all much better than me, but it might be worth finding out about how 'the golden section' works in music. It's something to do with a naturally occuring climax in a piece which can actually be measured as a time relationship between the middle and the end. Although is wasn't actually discovered until the 19th century, it occurs in most works by the 'great composers' such as Bach and Mozart.

    Me? I just play the trombone, and quite often I find that baffling enough :confused:
  3. yonhee

    yonhee Active Member

    If there is then I'm doomed cause I'm **** at maths.
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Hi Brian; I've spotted you here a few times, but haven't had the chance to say hello..

    Most definitely - and you yourself are the living proof of it, no? There are plenty of other examples I could point to, from the Oxford University Maths researcher we have on our front row at Kidlington to the all-Maths Euph/Bari line-up that we sported at the University of Warwick when I was there.

    What I think it comes down to is enjoying analysing patterns as an activity in itself. Making music is an activity that, however unseriously undertaken, requires a certain amount of pattern recognition, as Duncan alluded to. As you look closer and closer, peering more and more intently, deeper patterns jump out - in fact, I suspect that it's the patterns which are just buried deeply enough that we can't quite consciously comprehend them that give favourite pieces of music their 'zing'; indeed, sometimes it can detract from the 'magic' of a musical moment to understand concretely how the pattern of the effect is caused, if it is that kind of effect.

    To take an example of a favourite piece of many on the band scene, Wilby's 'Paganini Variations', a lot of the ongoing interest in the piece is maintained by the original sequence of Paganini that lurks beneath the surface on (almost) all of the variations. The least 'interesting' (to the listener) variations are the ones that deviate the furthest from the original theme, in a sense, but then, there is a deeper pattern where Wilby drifts away from and then back towards the original material. This joy in generalising is what characterises Mathematics in all its guises (rather than just arithmetic), and so there is a natural correspondence between performing thoughtfully in both disciplines.

    Must dash now, but I'm sure I shall return to this thread...
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Some interesting stuff on Wikipedia if you're into this kind of thing:

    Equal Temperament

    Pythagorean Tuning

    Then if you google for Chaos Theory and Music you'll get into non-linear dynamics and fractal generation of music....clever stuff this science thing :biggrin:
  6. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    I know of one conductor cant rememember who it was but they were a qualified mathamation and said the awkward time signatures were so simple to work out and made them easy for the band to understand.
    It would be no good explaining them to me as all i have is C.S.E grade 3 in Maths;)
  7. fulcherc

    fulcherc Member

    I definitely believe maths and music are connected. Many people that play music well are also very good at maths.
  8. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    My degree included maths (and computing - 25 years ago computing was part of maths) with music. I absolutely hated maths until 5th year (y11) and then it all suddenly fell into place. I had a choice after uni to teach maths or music.

    On my PGCE course, there were 4 other people in the same situation. At school, most of the maths staff are musical - some extraordinarily giftedly so. Sadly, it doesn't always go the other way.

    Mozart, so it is rumoured, was a genius at maths as well as music.
  9. dyl

    dyl Active Member

    What's a mathamation?
  10. jingleram

    jingleram Active Member

    Be fair, the subject is maths not English!!!;)
  11. dyl

    dyl Active Member

    Good job, really!

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