From Music to Mathematics

For most students, the hardest subject has been math. But mathematics is more than what we see. Music and mathematics were intertwined until the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras BC. Pythagoras listened carefully as a blacksmith’s hammer struck the anvil. And he realized that when it hits different areas, it makes different sounds. Pythagoras was inspired to study music at this time. He understood that music was based on mathematical relations and began to study harmony. Since then, many musicians have also studied mathematics. Ok as Marcus Miller. More mathematics and music science licenses were opened in universities. Like University of Eddinburg .

Harmonic series, partials 1-5 numbered

Often the mathematical part of music is incomprehensible to an untrained ear. But by working on this, musicians can understand the relationship of music with mathematics and even create works using mathematics. For example, Johny Buckland of the Coldplay group has a math license. It often includes mathematical themes such as Twisted Logic, Square One, Proof, Major Minus, and 42 in its songs.

music and mathematic
Jonny Buckland, performing with Coldplay, at the Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata, Japan, as part of the 2011 Fuji Rock Festival.

The modern classical composer Philip Glass wrote an opera with a mathematical background. The name of the opera: Einstein on The Beach. All parts of the opera are based on numbers and counting. At the same time, American avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson frequently uses mathematical subjects in her works, such as the song “Let X=X” in her Big Science album.

Laurie Anderson – Big Science

Musicians who have a mathematics and music degree include:

  • Brian May (Queen) – PhD in Astrophysics and degrees in mathematics, Imperial College London
  • Dan Snaith (Caribou) – PhD Mathematics, Imperial College London
  • Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel) – Masters in Mathematics, Columbia University
  • Johnny Buckland (Coldplay) – degree in Mathematics, University College London.
  • Gregg Turner (Angry Samoans) – Mathematics, Claremont Graduate University (currently teaches at New Mexico Highlands University)
  • Ethan Port (Savage Republic) – Mathematics, University of Southern California
  • Phil Alvin (The Blasters) – Mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles

How Are Mathematics and Music Related?

Studies show that the part of the brain used to solve reasoning problems is also activated by music. The brain has two different hemispheres. And these spheres perceive certain sound patterns and frequencies differently. From this we can deduce that sound of a certain frequency may be more effective in one hemisphere than in the other.

music and brain
NIH-funded scientists found that our brains may be uniquely sensitive to pitch, the harmonic sounds we hear when listening to speech or music.

The left hemisphere of our brain is responsible for solving arithmetic problems. Listening to music that can stimulate this area can improve cognitive and math skills. This has not remained a possibility and is based on scientific foundations. Scientists have shown a 40% improvement in performance when a child is played music while solving a math test.

The Mozart Effect

The Mozart effect
Mozart c. 1780, detail from portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce

In 1993, university professors Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw, and Catherine Ky put forward the Mozart Effect Theory. According to this theory, listening to Mozart or certain pieces of classical music can develop responsible reasoning for mental activities. They proved their thesis using Sonata for 2 pianos in D major.

Other works they used are Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 in A Major , and Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major Op 9 .

Although it is a very popular topic, it is still debated today. Fortunately, this theory is very easy to test. When you are going to study math or solve puzzles, you can measure your performance by listening to Mozart’s Sonata for 2 pianos in D major. Good reasoning…

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