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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Calling All Mathematical Musicians… or Musical Mathematicians


First, just a couple of recent links to the notion of mathematics as the study of (or 'science of') "patterns" -- there's plenty more on the Web about this simple notion, but here are a couple of starting points:

http://mathpalette.com/2012/02/mathematics-the-science-of-patterns/#.T0pXARsQezs.twitter

http://devlinsangle.blogspot.com/2012/01/patterns-what-patterns.html

The second piece is once again from Keith Devlin and toward the end of it he throws in some discussion of mathematics and music, an association I always find interesting.

I've known a number of individuals who were very skilled at both math and music (playing and/or writing music)… indeed, I've known several folks who were double majors in college, math and music. Often these two interests, one more-or-less from the humanities, and one more-or-less from the sciences, are perceived as opposites involving different mental realms, yet clearly there is an underlying thread that unites them.

Having no great musical talent myself, I am especially impressed with (envious of!) those who do, especially when they simultaneously exhibit the knack for mathematics -- those are the folks I'd like to hear from: Can you explain in your own words how math and music are associated in your minds; how the two intersect for you (assuming they do)? Which interest or talent did you experience first, and how quickly after one did the other follow? Do the two interests carry approximately equal weight for you, or is one more dominant than the other, or does one in some sense 'play off' the other? Are the two creative processes very similar in your mind or do they differ significantly?

Meanwhile, here are a few (of many) webpages that address the mathematics-music connection:

http://www.woodpecker.com/writing/essays/math+music.html

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1869

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_and_mathematics

1 comment:

.mau. said...

I am not a mathematician nor a musician, but I have a degree in maths and I composed three or four chorals, so maybe I am qualified to say at least something.

There is some similarity when I solve a problem or try to compose music, in the sense not only of patterns but also of formal rules to be followed. Moreover, in composing music I have a kind of "sense of beauty" similar to the one a mathematician has. But overall I think that the mental processes are quite different :-)