It’s really math – Philosophers have been biting their nails over this question for hundreds of years. Musicians and mathematicians don’t seem to have much in common, but scholars have suspected for centuries that the mysterious force that shapes the melodies that catch the ear is nothing other than math?geometry, to be precise. The Greek mathematician Pythagoras described pleasing musical intervals with simple mathematical ratios more than 2,600 years ago and this science evolved further during the Middle Ages when deep thinkers used those same ratios to model the “music of the spheres”?what many at that time believed to be the harmonious movements of the sun, moon and planets. Now a group of musicians and mathematicians, working together, have discovered new ways in which mathematics is intrinsic to musical harmony. A chord, for example, can be described as “the opening chord of Bach’s G minor Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin,” “G minor triad,” “minor triad” or simply “triad.”

Musician Clifton Callender says, “My fellow researchers and I have found it thrilling to discover unexplored areas of mathematics in the course of solving musical problems.” Hey, maybe math is everything!

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