Saturday, February 16, 2008

Music, Language, and Math

We attended a concert by the State Symphony of Mexico last night. It was a Proctor’s event, and they had not sold many tickets. In order to have some semblence of a crowd, Proctor’s puts out notice to employees and volunteers, announcing that free tickets will be available a few minutes before the show. Anyone can walk up to the ticket window and ask for tickets to the show, and give the password ‘Ole.’

So we got two ole tickets in Row FF near the front. We had a view of the grand piano keyboard for Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3. The pianist was a Cuban who was very deft with his fingers for a long period of time. Concert pianists have such skills, they amaze me: they can play 20-25 minutes with no music.

Music is a language – or, more succinctly, a set of languages – and a conversant player can speak the language without a script. Each musical key is a dialect of that language. A good player will know the emotion, the words, and the tempo of the piece, and can make the music speak. If they are reading something written by someone else – another composer – then they memorize the words. A good player will know the words so well that he can apply the proper emotion and tell the story in his own way.

That is art.

Of course, the other theory is that music is actually closer to math. A piece of music is another form of mathematical expression. Rhythm is a collection of beats, or counting. The key signature defines the mathematical equation for the piece, and the musician does the calculation with his or her instrument. Apparently, many musicians are also very good at math and numbers. Both use the same side of the brain, apparently.

Music, language, math. Each, and all together, elements of creativity.