Music to the Ears of an Engineer
It is true that Mr. Stein's vocation as an educator increases the likelihood that he understands the scientific and mathematical underpinnings of musical instrument design and the elegance of music theory. I watched about 8 hours of music theory (DVD instruction set) from a Ph.D. professor at a leading conservatory, where he significantly challenged my own understanding of harmonics and resonance, scales, tempo, and many other technical realms. If you are a musician, do you really understand the Circle of Fifths and why using it for, among other things, transposing the key of a music piece actually works? When the light bulb turned on for me, I felt as gratified as when I learned how to calculate the escape velocity of a massive body in physics class. Even so, my understanding is still woefully below that of an accomplished classically trained musician.
Stein recounts some of Einstein's exchanges with noted contemporaries like composer and playright Rabindranath Tagore (I hadn't heard of him, either) regarding the correlation of music, physics, and philosophy. What piqued my interest in Stein's usage of math was a paragraph where he chose to use the concept of an argument with three unknown quantities requiring three equations (lines of thought in this case) in order to be solved. References to relativity are scattered throughout as well. You can read the article here if you are interested*.
On a related note (pun intended), Phil Libin, co-founder and CEO of Evernote software company, wrote an article titled, "And Suddenly, a Symphony of Creativity Is Unleashed," in Inc magazine relating how his beginning to learn to play the piano at age 41 has altered his awareness of the parallel factors of musical structure and concepts on everyday activities. It's a quick read of one page.
While you're there, try, "The West Point Way," to read a surprising report on how author Bo Burlingham discovered that despite an unimaginable level of constant stress during four years of military discipline and rigorous college studies, the Cadets are far and above happier and more positive than any he has encountered on civilian campuses.
No, I am not a musician.
* This is not available on the Strings website, but can be viewed here by signing up for a 7-day free trial. Caveat: I have not used this service and cannot vouch for its integrity.
Posted October 8, 2013
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