Why is there a link between music & math/physics

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

There is a great depth to the mathematics associated with music in terms of chord structure and progression, but clearly the brain does not primarily compute frequencies, ratios and sequences when improvising. However, there is clearly a correlation between mathematical abilities and musical talent (or at least musical intuition for those without access to instruments), at least colloquially, and I would imagine it to be true statistically. Why is this? What is it about the way we think of music that is presumably similar to the way in which we intuitively consider physical processes or mathematical structures? Thoughts? Ideas? Article links?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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It is probably because they both use parts of the brain closely connected. For instance, the regions of the brain that interpret color and numbers are next to each other, explaining synesthesia.
 
  • #3
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It is probably because they both use parts of the brain closely connected. For instance, the regions of the brain that interpret color and numbers are next to each other, explaining synesthesia.
Eh? What about sound/vision mixes? What about word/proprioception mixes? What about touch/taste mixes?
 
  • #4
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There is a great depth to the mathematics associated with music in terms of chord structure and progression, but clearly the brain does not primarily compute frequencies, ratios and sequences when improvising. However, there is clearly a correlation between mathematical abilities and musical talent (or at least musical intuition for those without access to instruments), at least colloquially, and I would imagine it to be true statistically. Why is this? What is it about the way we think of music that is presumably similar to the way in which we intuitively consider physical processes or mathematical structures? Thoughts? Ideas? Article links?
The fact tones and chords have elementary numerical relationships is probably incidental to why it moves us. I think the reason we respond emotionally to music is that it is stimulating the same brain responses as tone of voice of speech does.

I am not aware that any composers of note demonstrated any overt mathematical talent, and I'm not sure what you might mean by 'colloquial' mathematical talent.
 
  • #5
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By here,I just think of an affair of my teacher.Yesteday,while he was teaching real analysis in the class,he break out for a little moment and said:

People always said music and math are elegant things.But I think,math is more elegant.For example if you meet some friends and then you talk,you say,I sing two songs this morning and I'm happy.It is good but not so romantic.But if you say I proved two conjecture these days and I'm very happy,then it sounds fantastic.(Students laughs)

After that,he added:So it seems the most elegant thing is doing math while you are singing a song.(the whole room burst into laughter,haha)
 
  • #6
I'm not sure what you might mean by 'colloquial' mathematical talent.
Well I'm not saying that studying Fourier series makes you better at violin, and I'm not talking about the change in IQ or some other ability that is affected by listening to Mozart prenatal or otherwise, but instead, maybe there's some link (possibly related to spatial abilities? just a guess) between understanding math and music. Here's a http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1869" [Broken] (replace search terms with your own instrument or musical genre of preference), supported by silly news articles and your own personal experience(s).
 
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  • #7
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Eh? What about sound/vision mixes? What about word/proprioception mixes? What about touch/taste mixes?
<shrug> what about them? I simply postulated that it may be due, in part, to the connectivity of the brain.
 
  • #8
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Well I'm not saying that studying Fourier series makes you better at violin, and I'm not talking about the change in IQ or some other ability that is affected by listening to Mozart prenatal or otherwise, but instead, maybe there's some link (possibly related to spatial abilities? just a guess) between understanding math and music. Here's a http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1869" [Broken] (replace search terms with your own instrument or musical genre of preference), supported by silly news articles and your own personal experience(s).
Um...The author of the paper you linked to concludes:

However, as to the question of whether or not music is the magical portion that will elevate anyone's ability to do math, the answer unfortunately . . .would be no. Just because most mathematicians are fond of music, dosen't mean that all musicians are fond of mathematics. I found a letter posted on the web written by a fourteen-year-old overachiever to a mathematics professor. The student expresses his fraustration that even though he is an excellent musician, math is one of his weakest subjects. In math, he is not making the grades that he needs to stay in a certain prestigious academic program (4).

This letter seems to suggest that listening to music, or being able to master a musical instrument does not automatically guarantee that one can perform well in math. In other words, there are many musicians who are good in music but not in math. Music is a lot more than notes conforming to mathematical patterns and formulas. Music is exhilarating because of the intricacies of the patterns that occurs. Whether or not these patterns resemble math has no relevance to many musicians. More often than not, musicians are inclined to practice music because of the wonders and awe that they feel for music even if they are not aware of the math that is in music.
 
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  • #9
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<shrug> what about them? I simply postulated that it may be due, in part, to the connectivity of the brain.
Laying any neurological phenomenon down to "the connectivity of the brain" is so general as to be meaningless. Blinking, eating, doing calculus, exhibiting the symptoms of Parkinsons, driving a car: all due to the connectivity of the brain.
 
  • #10
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clearly the brain does not primarily compute frequencies, ratios and sequences when improvising.
Why do you think that this is "clearly" a fact.It may be that the brain actually does the computations but we are not aware of it. just like we are not aware of the computations that take place in a computer.
This book seems to address some of your questions.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=wVl...#v=onepage&q=the brain as a computer&f=false"
One thing about musical improvisation is that it must be done around a clear, strong theoretical framework in order to work nicely.If not is just messing around on the instrument.
 
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  • #11
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Why do you think that this is "clearly" a fact.It may be that the brain actually does the computations but we are not aware of it. just like we are not aware of the computations that take place in a computer.
This book seems to address some of your questions.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=wVl...#v=onepage&q=the brain as a computer&f=false"
One thing about musical improvisation is that it must be done around a clear, strong theoretical framework in order to work nicely.If not is just messing around on the instrument.
Personally, I can't count 440 oscillations in a second. I'm pretty confident my brain deals with A as a unity.
 
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  • #12
ps.

two profs that came to mind with interesting work:

Todorov: computations the brain must perform for limb movement and sensory information processing
http://www.cs.washington.edu/homes/todorov/

Krumhansl: cognitive processes in music perception and memory
http://www.psych.cornell.edu/people/Faculty/clk4.html [Broken]
 
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