Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Mathematics of Music

A Review of a Masters Thesis:

It’s widely known that mathematics and music hold commonalities; this thesis aims to have a gander at how, the use of series is found in music and whether or not mathematical operations can be used to generate series of notes that can happily be called music. Along with the premise that music could also be represented mathematically.

The author investigates, using trial and error, easily found in a mathematicians and composers waste bins, how a set of notes can be transformed using mathematical operators. The work is set out clearly, giving readers good overviews of the musical and mathematical theories to be used.

The author succeeds in producing a little ditty of merit. The real gem for me however, is the section on representing music in mathematical graphical functions. As readers of this site will come to learn, I LOVE graphs. They have the power to unlock insights in data that may otherwise be lost in tables of statistical analysis. Although I agree with Mr T that a table is often the best way to present data.
This section of the thesis aims to use graphical structures to represent the complex nature of music. However, the author rightly concludes that this is difficult as a musical note has so many variables (volume, pitch, tone, length – not to say anything for the more complex workings of music). But the lightbulb moment for me was when I realised that the musical score is in fact structural representation of music! The stave is a graph!!

The fact that something as complicated as a piece of music can easily and effectively be communicated by the use of shapes, lines and symbols, which distinctly each have separate purposes to indicate ideas further iterates how fantastic graphs, maths and music really are!