oriented types often think of those with an artsy-fartsy bent as ones who run for
the tall grass when topics of science and/or mathematics arise. Other than engineers,
scientists, financiers, etc., I would say in most cases it is justified - but not
always. In the September 2013 edition of
magazine, an article titled, "How the Violin Altered Our View of the Universe*"
appeared where author Paul
Stein, a violinist, educator, and member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, evidenced
a very good grasp of science and math principles. The very decision to pen such
an article had to have been born of a knowledge and comfort with the aforementioned.
A subtitle of, "Physicist & violinist Albert Einstein's cosmic orchestra resonates
with the music of the spheres," proves familiarity of Isaac Newton's "Music of the Spheres,"
(Musica Universalis) Einstein's competence with a violin, and the concept of resonance.
Just because a musician can use the word 'resonance' in a sentence does not necessarily
mean he/she can tell you what it really means (trust me, I know).
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
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