Music, Mathematics, Metaphor – The Language of Perspectives
Metaphor acts a mesmerizing mediator between the creative world of music and the complex world of mathematics. This is the abstract language that magically connects these two distinct spaces of knowledge of science and acknowledgement of art.
Alphabets are not the only form of language.
We as human beings use multiple other forms of languages to communicate and understand the world around us. There are signs and there are symbols, there are notes and beats, and there are numbers and equations.
It is just that each of these different forms of languages communicates differently and provides different perspectives of the same phenomena.
It is in the ultimate analysis is the process of communication.
Music is nothing but mathematics.
Counting and scales, rhythms and intervals, patterns and symbols, to tone and pitch are a product of mathematical composition. The language of mathematics is what most of us dread to learn and the language of music is what most of us love to listen…branded as the universal language. If music is composed of maths, then why not use the language of music to make maths universally learned.
After all mathematics is the language that speaks the voice of nature.
The magic of life is ensconced in the design of nature.
It was the great astronomer Galileo Galilei who stated that the entire universe is written in the language of mathematics. The universe is a composition of cosmic vibrations. Music is a form of vibration where the notes matches and the tone connects with the tune our mind and heart. According to the father of mathematics Pythagoras, there is geometry in the humming of the strings; there is music in the spacing of the spheres. He used numerical terms to express intervals between notes and derived musical tones from geometrical patterns. Music is a derivative of mathematical composition. Music is completely intertwined with mathematics. Plato, the Greek philosopher also found interest in music and he also highlighted the relationship between music and maths. Confucius, the Chinese philosopher stated that within music are a number of fundamental truths.
When we are listening to streams of music, we are in fact hearing a collection of notes. Each note is a sound wave having a particular frequency, informing our brain the pitch or the note that is being played. And when these notes combine not all frequencies will produce a beautiful harmonic chord. It all depends on the combination of notes and we can hear the sound…the bad combination produces noise and the good combination is nothing but music.
Music and maths are irrationally put in two different categories, though these two subjects represent different body of knowledge.
Maths is about science.
Music is about art.
Those who are interested in maths are kept away from music and those who are interested in music are kept away from maths. That’s precisely how our education system has been designed where the right brain is left out when music and maths are spoken in the same sphere. There is an irony. The irony is in the way these two subjects get treated. The sibling of music gets a step motherly treatment pitted against maths. The later works on scientific invention, there is tangible outcomes and the former dwells on the aesthetics discovery, these are merely intangibles.
Musical Pieces are read much like the way we read the math symbols. A symbol represents a bit of information about the piece. Musical pieces are divided into sections called as measures and these in turn are further divided into what we know as beats. And beats are nothing but mathematical division of time.
Numbers tell us a whole lot about the musical pieces.
In Music, Fibonacci sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13….) where adding each number to the one before it creates the next number, it can be seen in Piano scales. The C scale in Piano consists of 13 keys from C to C, 8 white keys and 5 black keys, with black keys arranged in a group of 3 and 2. “Middle C” is the first note in Piano and it has a frequency of 262 Hertz. No musical notes fit together better than those which are exactly one octave apart. Middle C & High C or for that matter Middle G & High G are pairs in popular music. Notes which are one octave apart sound almost like the same note or a slight variation to the same note. The question remains who then decide which notes will go together and which won’t, and the answer logically lies in the science of mathematics.
All the musical notions such as octaves, chords, scales and keys are all forms of mathematics.
It was Pythagoras who played with stretched strings, and observed that different sounds can be made with different vibrations. This then led to the finding that pitch of a vibrating string is linked to the length. Strings that halved in length are one octane higher than the original. In other words, shorter the string higher the pitch and vice versa, also note of certain frequencies sound musical with multiple frequencies of that note.
Music works mathematically.
Music is a result of numerical symphony.
Musical instruments are an embodiment of numbers, fractions, ratios, patterns and symmetries. Does then the musical learning enhances our mathematically abilities? Or does the mathematical knowledge augments our musical skill? How much is nature and how much can be nurtured? There is no such empirical study stating unambiguously that musical training helps our mathematical learning. It is still operating in that spatial realm of conjecture and cognitive correlation.
Music is sound.
Sound is a wave.
Sound Wave is combination of the crest represents the compression and the trough that represents rarefaction. Sound progresses as a wave through the medium of air, sound cannot be produced without atmosphere. In the vacuum, sound gets vanquished. Sound creates pouch of higher and lower air pressure. The sound we hear is caused by this change in pressure. The frequency at which this pouch strikes our ear controls the intensity of pitch we hear. The distance between the two matching points is called the wavelength. The number of wavelengths hitting our ear in a certain amount of time is called as frequency.
This is important in music as it determines the notes. Note is the pitch and duration of a sound. A pitch is a characterization of the frequency stating whether the note is low or high. Frequency is related through fractions. High frequency note is high pitched. Low frequency note is low pitched. These are the building blocks of musical composition.
Math behind the music is amazing.
Mathematics is music.
It all starts with the “Vibration”. The moment we hit the drum, the air vibrates and then the ear drum vibrates and brain translates those vibrations into beats and notes. These are musical notes. Each instrument vibrates in a unique mix of frequency and it is the maths that creates the right or wrong mixture. A novice playing the instrument produces the wrong notes and a virtuous playing the same instrument produces the right notes.
Math and music combines the galaxy of patterns plucked from nature.
The basic connection between music and maths is rhythm, in terms of notes, chord and melodies…different notes have different frequency. It is about the resonance to different frequency. The moment frequency breaks rhythm it creates dissonance. When we play the instrument, it vibrates to intricate patterns responding to different musical notes. The hidden frequency in the instrument is called as harmonics. The layers of sound gives each instrument from violin to guitar to drum to flute to trumpet a distinctive flavour…presenting a unique mix of harmonics. Harmonics are part of maths in each of the notes. The various classic kind of patterns come from symmetry, music and maths have that in common. Human beings love the kaleidoscope of patterns. It is playing between the world of chaos and order, between sphere of simplicity and complexity, between zone of silence and sound, and between the space that can make or break the sound as music or noise.
Metaphor is a figure of speech containing an oblique comparison.
A metaphor states that something is something else. It is an adornment of language that makes a conversation beautifully appealing and meaningfully engaging. It is a mean through which mind perceives and interprets the reality. Let’s take any musical instrument and compare with our life, it throws out so many fascinating facets.
Life is so much like a flute. The instrument of flute is a body of emptiness and a series of holes. It is just one perspective. Play the flute. The melody flows out like magic. This is another perspective. It is for us how we see at the same life. Seeing is not in naked eyes, it is through the eyes of perspective.
Metaphors helps us to express our experiences to emotions to engagement which otherwise becomes difficult to communicate through our standard set of vocabulary. Words have a width to convey a meaning beyond the bandwidth it losses it signal and we need to establish a different pipeline to pass on the message. Metaphors help us to understand things that are complex and difficult to analyse. It helps us to interpret in a much better and simpler way. Metaphors are another form of language and mathematical concepts can be simplified and can be made to understand better with the smart usage of these comparison. Metaphor amplifies the meaning of message. Words have the limitation and pictures have the liberty in communicating that message as effectively as possible.
Mathematics is like the language explaining the principles and processes running the magic of nature.
Mathematics is like a gearbox, we can change our learning by changing the gear.
Mathematics is like a cobweb with so many networks and patterns.
Music is a language and it gets both literally and metaphorically described by the makers of the instrument to the players of those wonderful instruments. There are two different perspectives to the same instrument, one the science behind the design and the other the art that comes with the passion of emotion while mastering the motion of sound that emanates through the vehicle of beats and notes.
The Language of Music by Deryck Crooke puts music the universal language in its proper perspective. The language that is understood by heart not by the brain, it is emotional in nature not intellect in its engagement. Music is more of an experience and not to be understood, hence it needs a different language and the language of metaphors makes the experience of music subtle and surreal.
Metaphors in essence enhances our understanding of music and enrich our experience of hearing the music.
The perceived complexity of mathematics is masked in the music of metaphors; it just that we need to learn the notes and play the beats to the tune…music is the best metaphor of learning and leveraging the universal power of a language.
Language is an embodiment of multiple perspectives…
Nihar R Pradhan