MSRI Math and Music

November 12, 2005

So I forgot to write about the last event I went to hosted by MSRI (Mathematical Science Research Institute). They have had a few free public events involving the synergy of mathematics and art. Similar to Leonardo, the international group dedicated to art, science and technology. Anyways, the last event I went to was an event involving Christerpher Taylor, a painist who has a BA in mathematics from Harvard and who is also on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin. He gave some samples of the Ligeti piano études and a some other ratio-created peices. Suffice it to say, most of it sounded horrible except for most of the slower Ligeti samples. It probably sounded horrible because the more complex peices were dealing with higher ratios (instead of 3 to 4 they were like 12 to 15) which means there was something like 9 and/or sometimes 10 different notes played simultaneously. Navarro (I think that was the name) composed some peices that required two pianofortes used simultaneously.

What was interesting that within these infamously bad sounding peices there was another rythmn that could be heard underlying the 15 or so notes being played at painfully fast speeds. So while you heard this one super-fast song being played you could hear if you stood back and listened to the hidden rythmn… it actually started to sound pretty good. Maybe it’s like what Count Basie said: “it’s the notes you don’t hear that matter.” Well, this time he was right.


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