Before I embark on writing this article I admit I am not big on the intricacies of Music. Neither do I understand how to read music nor do I understand the subtleties involved in a musical composition. But I have to thank my blog for putting me on an exploratory mode and I stumbled upon some articles discussing the mathematics of Music. It fascinated me and I as I further explored I thought I could write up an article titled 3M. Mathematics Music and Mozart effect.
Frequency, Pitch, Chord and Harmony. These words are straight from any twelfth grade physics text book out of the chapter Physics of Sound. I myself vaguely remember some terms called node and anti-node which have to do with the semantics of wave propagation in hollow pipes. But the same words as a whole form the building blocks of a Musical composition. Expanding the range of vocabulary to include “Counting, rhythm, scales, intervals, patterns, symbols, harmonies, time signatures, overtones, tone, and pitch”. The notations of composers and sounds made by musicians are connected to mathematics.
So does this mean Mathematicians make better musicians and musicians make better Mathematicians? Frankly I don’t know. However a good knowledge of music could lead to better ability in mathematics. Math and Music are usually organized into two separate categories, without obvious overlap. It tends to be that people are good at math and science or art and music, as if the two elements could not be placed together logically. In actuality, math and music are indeed related and we commonly use numbers and math to describe and teach music.
Musical pieces are read much like you would read math symbols. The symbols represent some bit of information about the piece. Musical pieces are divided into sections called measures or bars. Each measure embodies an equal amount of time. Furthermore, each measure is divided into equal portions called beats. These are all mathematical divisions of time. Fractions are used in music to indicate lengths of notes. In a musical piece, the time signature tells the musician information about the rhythm of the piece. A time signature is generally written as two integers, one above the other. The number on the bottom tells the musician which note in the piece gets a single beat (count). The top number tells the musician how many of this note is in each measure. Numbers can tell us a lot about musical pieces.
Each note has a different shape to indicate its beat length or time. Notes are classified in terms of numbers as well. There are whole notes (one note per measure), half notes (two notes per measure), quarter notes (four notes per measure), eighth notes (eight notes per measure), and sixteenth notes (sixteen notes per measure). These numbers signify how long the notes last. That is, a whole note would last through the entire measure whereas a quarter note would only last ¼ of the measure and thus there is enough time for four quarter notes in one measure. This can be expressed mathematically since 4 x 1/4 = 1. A note with a dot after it lengthens the note by half Three eights of a measure is midway between a quarter note and a half note. It is important for musicians to understand the relationships and values of fractions in order to correctly hold a note.
The closest tie between music and math is patterns. Musical pieces often have repeating choruses or bars, similar to patterns. In mathematics, we look for patterns to explain and predict the unknown. Music uses similar strategies. When looking at a musical piece, musicians look for notes they recognize to find notes that are rare (high or low) and less familiar. In this way, notes relate to each other. Relationships are fundamental to mathematics and create an interesting link between music and math.
As much as I present information explaining the relation between music and mathematics does early musical exposure to kids have any effect on their cognitive capabilities? Now that brings the Third M into the Picture the much talked about Mozart Effect. But what really is Mozart Effect?
Dr. Gordon Shaw developed the Mozart Effect, a theory that listening to classical music will make you smarter, in the early 1990s. – Shaw became interested in brain theory in 1973 when he began researching the brain’s capacity for spatial reasoning. People use spatial reasoning in such activities as solving mathematical problems, playing chess, engineering and science.
Shaw developed a model of the brain and used musical notes to represent brain activity. They were astonished to find that the overall sound resembled that of classical music. This is when Shaw decided to test the results of classical music on the brain.Shaw conducted his first studies on three-year-olds and later studied the effects of classical music on college students. In 1993, he caught the media’s attention when he reported that a group of college students increased their IQs as much as nine points as a result of listening to Mozart’s “Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major.” Shaw’s groundbreaking results spawned a number of similar studies. One of which, conducted in Wisconsin at Oshkosh, showed that preschoolers given piano lessons once a week scored 34 percent higher on spatial reasoning tests than those who didn’t receive piano lessons.
Other studies, like one conducted by Harvard medical student Christopher Chabris, cast doubt on the Mozart Effect. After researching 16 studies involving 714 people, Chabris found that there was no statistically significant rise in IQ and no improvement in spatial thinking or abstract reasoning among the participants. Researchers are still conducting studies on the effect of music on the brain and even on people with certain illnesses like epilepsy. With new technology, scientists can better study neural circuitry of the brain-the way that trillions of connections are formed between billions of neurons during early infancy and childhood. So if you want to increase brain capacity and be a mastermind, will listening to your favorite Mozart CD really help? It might be too early to tell. One thing is for certain, no one has ever lost intelligence from overexposure to Mozart, and children given the opportunity to study music will become smarter-at least in music
So I guess the first place to start if you want to start introducing music to your kids is get on Netflix and order the video Sound of Music and enjoy the classic Do-Re-Mi