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Math, music and people.

12 tones, mathematically precise.

When Johann Sebastian Bach first composed The Well Tempered Clavier, he had no idea the influence these works would have. By establishing tuning requirements for each note, he made it possible for compositions to be played in a variety of keys without sounding out of tune. Prior to these works, re-tuning was required for some pieces, as the distance in hertz between notes wasn’t uniform. Bach changed everything, in a sense, by making music into math.

So why doesn’t music sound like math?

Well, if every instrument had the same timbre, music would be math. Gratefully, each instrument has it’s own tone with its own set of overtones, thereby distinguishing itself from other instruments. Some have mellower tones, providing the “glue” for the musical experience. They are the foundation for those with brighter tones – tones that soar above the orchestral infrastructure.

I find that we are like musical instruments. Mathematically, remarkable similar…easily identified, organically, as homo sapiens. But the timbre of our personalities gives us rare tone. At times, the dissonance of those tones still bring discord to our lives. We long for uniformity….that other’s tones would be more like ours. But in the end, it’s the variety of tones that makes music beautiful and inviting. And so it is with people.





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2 Responses to “Math, music and people.”

  1. Great analogy. It makes me think of the description that JRR Tolkien gave of how the world of Middle Earth was created, utilizing music and its various movements and then how discord in the music was brought about by Melkor.

    That bit of geekiness aside, please continue your discussion…LOL

  2. […] Math, music and people ~ why music doesn’t sound like math (On Making an Oak Tree) […]

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