Math Music

Day 331 Week 48 Q4 Tuesday, November 28, 2023

This is about finding the math in the music, not about finding the music in the music, although there most certainly is some. One is a lot faster than the other.  The creation of music in real-time whether being extemporaneous or a previously perfected performance, occurs at a much greater speed than solving equations and rational theoretical underpinnings.

You see, if there were to be a bridge between science and art, music would be that bridge. For me, music is the most mathematical of all of the hearts because you can be described very clearly, if not very comprehensively, mathematically.

There is a tremendous amount of pattern recognition and pattern creation within both music and math. By the way, the place where they meet most elegantly is in psychoacoustics, a branch of psychophysics. This has to do with measuring the physical variables that cause measurable psychological responses.

For example, we can measure frequency in a very unambiguous manner.  It is very clear how many cycles per second, or Hz, are occurring in the physical world when a sound or some other periodic excitation, like an oscillating electrical signal, is produced. 

That’s clear is what a human mind perceives this vibration to be in terms of pitch. There is a many-to-one mapping of different frequencies into the same pitch. Loudness can also interact with the perception of pitch, as can, tonal quality, which is also called timbre. 

The patterns at the boundaries between perception and physically produced phenomena are a fascinating subject called psychophysics. When the physical phenomena is acoustical or sonic in nature, it is then called psychoacoustics.

You see, there is a lot of math in music, and it is best for me, at least discovered in the rearview mirror after the music has occurred. Math can also be beautiful and, for some, produce an aesthetically stimulating experience like music.

But the experience that music creates, at least for me and, I suspect, for most of the world, is far more immediate, intense, passionate, and enveloping. The mathematical understanding of emotional feelings through analysis permits you to put music under a microscope, which helps you to better understand what you are hearing and why you are feeling when you feel. 

There is a great deal of music theory, which can be combined with a substantial mature field of physics theory. They all come together when you are a composer, orchestrating a piece for an ensemble of instruments.

There is a delicious mix of math and music manifested by an orchestra. As a composer, I am privileged to mess with the seemingly infinite math in the music.

This allows me the great gift of being able to cross the bridge between art and science as often as I please.

Math Music