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Thread: How does math come into play when composing music?

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    Default How does math come into play when composing music?

    I've heard some describe Bach's music as being "mathematical" but I struggle to understand the relationship between math and music. Can Bach's music be explained by a system of equations? When would a composer bust out a pencil and paper and start doing math?

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Mathematics is a broad area. You can use set theory to analyze any kind of music, using Alan Forte's book Atonal Theory.

    Also, symmetry is a mathematical idea, and Bach can be looked at in this way, too; how themes get inverted, turned upside down etc. I think music has a lot in common with geometry.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
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    Check out Bartok. He used the Golden Ratio in some of his music, consciously or not:

    https://www.cmuse.org/classical-piec...-golden-ratio/

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Leibniz....

    'Music is the hidden arithmetical exercise of a soul unconscious that it is calculating. If therefore the soul does not notice it calculates, it yet senses the effect of its unconscious reckoning, be this as joy over harmony or oppression over discord.'

    We just don't oppress the discord so much these days and for some, the math is not subconscious. Composing is definitely geometric as MR says and it can be algorithmic too.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jun-22-2019 at 14:01.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    A good composer for different methods, using geometry & math, is Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik, if you can find anything in the liner notes about his methods. Not much on WIK.


    Andrzej Panufnik


    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-02-2019 at 23:30.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    Senior Member Bwv 1080's Avatar
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    Every musician does Mod12 arithmetic

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bwv 1080 View Post
    Every musician does Mod12 arithmetic
    In normal tonality, not really; if that were true, then chord inversion would be based on quantity, not identity in a tonal hierarchy. Example:

    C-E-G, G-E-C, and E-C-G are all C major chords.

    If we used modulo 12, these intervals would become quantities, not identities:

    C-E-G, (C +M3+m3) when retrograded, becomes (C minus a M3 minus a m3) and results in C-Ab-F, which is an F minor.

    Tonality is based on a recursive cycle in which "place" is the determiner, always in relation to a tonic or root note.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I don't mind dying, as long as I can still breathe." ---Me

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    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Leibniz....

    'Music is the hidden arithmetical exercise of a soul unconscious that it is calculating. If therefore the soul does not notice it calculates, it yet senses the effect of its unconscious reckoning, be this as joy over harmony or oppression over discord.'
    I like this quote. I think it's true that if math is a part of music the musician usually uses it in a unconscious way. I think it's the same for architecture, painting, poetry etc. The sense of form and proportion, simmetry (or asimmetry), balance have certainly to do with math but the artist is mostly guided by instinct, even when he's conscious of the mathematical qualities behind his work (even guys like Xenakis).
    What time is the next swan?

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