In the Beginning was the Sound


Economics poetry by David Rossie;

To attempt a PhD, or not to attempt a PhD:
That's a really good question.
Whether 'tis advisable to tackle the math
And statistics from outrageous curricula,
Or to accept a lucrative job offer,
And by avoiding those rigours,
Make a good income? To play, to relax:
No more; and by finishing to say we end
The fatigue and social-isolation
That an industrius student is heir to, 'tis a relief
An object of our lust.

Mr Romer compared the building of economic models to writing poetry. But what has mathematics to do with music. The latest BBC series, ‘In Our Time’ talks about Mathematics and Music;

The seventeenth century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz wrote: 'Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting'. Mathematical structures have always provided the bare bones around which musicians compose music and have been vital to the very practical considerations of performance such as fingering and tempo.

But there is a more complex area in the relationship between maths and music which is to do with the physics of sound: how pitch is determined by force or weight; how the complex arrangement of notes in relation to each other produces a scale; and how frequency determines the harmonics of sound.

How were mathematical formulations used to create early music? Why do we in the West hear twelve notes in the octave when the Chinese hear fifty-three? What is the mathematical sequence that produces the so-called 'golden section'? And why was there a resurgence of the use of mathematics in composition in the twentieth century?

Contributors include Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, Robin Wilson, Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Open University and Ruth Tatlow, Lecturer in Music Theory at the University of Stockholm.


This year's Reith Lecturer is the distinguished musician Daniel Barenboim. A child prodigy as a pianist, Barenboim has since branched out into conducting and matured to become one of the foremost musical figures of his age. The lectures are ongoing.

Formal Economic Theory; Beautiful but Useless?

How Economists Use Literature and Drama by Michael Watts, author of The Literary Book of Economics


It always seemed to me that math and music had a lot in common. Nice post for us musicians, we need to go back and study our algebra!


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 25, 2006 11:35 PM.

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