September 27, 2014

The Harmony of Music and Mathematics

There is a long connection between music and mathematics, asserts Tomoko. Both require precision and order. Both deal with proportion and harmony. Both use pattern creatively. Music is very measured, and mathematics has its own kind of rhythm.

Likewise, composers and mathematicians have connections. Bach is known for his mathematical counterpoint.  Bach wrote his crab canon such that it can be played backwards and forwards at the same time. Bach also used musical numerology. For instance, he would incorporate his name into compositions: B, A, C, and H (B is B natural in German, and B is H).

Mozart was a super mathematician, and his composition papers sometimes had algebra notes on them.  Mozart also used musical numerology, weaving masonic numerical symbols in his open The Magic Flute, such as the number three (such as three-part haromy, characters in sets of three, and  key E flat major, which has three flats.

On the flip side, Einstein played the violin for his own pleasure, and would even perform at benefit concerts. He loved Mozart because of the composer’s expression of universal harmony, and he revered Bach for his structure.

How does this fit into learning the piano? Tomoko says, “At the beginning, the child needs to learn the basics, like arithmetic tables.” She points out the importance of understanding a composition’s structure and patterns, just like mathematics. “And we strive for harmony.”