“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”
The relation between mathematics and music has been known to mankind for ages. Early Greek thinkers,such as Aristotle and Plato, researched deeply into the subject as they were convinced that the two are inextricably linked. Evidence has been found that even early Indian and Chinese thinkers and philosophers understood this link and tried to use it for the overall well-being of humans.
With the focus now back on the inter-relation between maths and music, scientists are conducting experiments to establish a more definite and measurable link so that it can be used to enhance the learning capacity, especially in children.
But what exactly is the relation between mathematics and music? The first thing that comes to mind is the construction of musical instruments. Every musical instrument, whether it be a guitar or drums or harmonium or anything else, has to be perfectly proportioned in order to create the desired music. For example, the strings of an acoustic guitar is always between 610 mm and 648 mm.
Coming to the rhythms, the frequency of pitch and the consequent octave is linked together mathematically. If we double the frequency of any pitch, we get a sound which is one octave higher than that of the original pitch. Even the basis of the scale degrees and the reason behind the 12-tone row are all connected to mathematical addition and subtraction. The basic notations of every type of music, be it the Indian Ragas, Western Melodies or Japanese pentatonic scale, are all based on mathematical codes and inextricably linked to numbers.
From ancient times, there has been no doubt over the inter-relation between these two subjects. Maths and music were taught simultaneously in the old educational systems such as the Indian gurukuls. Extensive research is now being done on how learning one of these can help with the other. It can be used to increase the ability of children to learn mathematics more quickly and more efficiently.