Category Archives: Composition

Music and Math and Patterns, OH MY!

A saxophone student recently showed me a YouTube video explaining 12-tone music composition in an engaging and humorous way. Fascinating story line, cartooning/doodling (laser-bats and bird-bowls) and music clips make an advanced concept easily understood by the non-professional.

The video author is Vi Hart. She describes herself as a professional “mathemusician” at the famed online learning resource Khan Academy. And yes, she advocates the creation of new words to describe things. As she says, “Making up new words is just so prolightfully awstastic.”  I checked out her YouTube channel and found content explaining math concepts such as Fibonacci number series as it relates to spirals in nature using glitter glue in different colors on pine cones and flowers – and I laughed out loud watching it, and learned something new (and now also understand the purpose of the “cat-slug”).

I also saw her demonstrate a mobius strip using a music box player and a strip of paper in which she had punched out notes of her composition. She then taped the ends together with a half  twist in the strip. The first time the box plays the strip it produces the theme as written, as it passes through the second time the music is played inverted.

Please invest the 30 minutes to watch this video. It is simply the best “lecture” on music theory I have ever seen. It is a great explanation of how multiple notes work together to create sounds that help us express ourselves, and how this relates to patterns found in nature and mathematical truth. Please use the comments section below and let me know what you think.

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