You are here

The Math Behind the Music

The Math Behind the Music

By Leon Harkleroad

Catalog Code: MBM
Print ISBN: 978-0-88385-935-5
144 pp., Paperbound, 2006
List Price: $24.00
Series: Outlooks

Buy Print Book

The book explores the math related to aspects of music from its acoustical bases to compositional techniques to music criticism. The mathematics involved ranges over areas from probability theory to Fourier series to group theory. The book also relates some cautionary tales of misguided attempts to mix music and math. An accompanying audio CD illustrates many of the musical examples that the book discusses.

Table of Contents

Mathematics and Music, A Duet
Pitch: the Ground of Music
Tuning Up
How to Vary a Theme Mathematically
Bells and Groups
Music by Chance
Pattern, Pattern, Pattern
Sight Meets Sound
How NOT to Mix Mathematics and Music
Contents of the CD
Illustration Credits

About the Author

Leon Harkleroad gives frequent lectures on mathematics and music for the Mathematical Association of America and other groups. He has been published in many journals, and he has received the George Pólya Award from the MAA for one of his papers.

MAA Review

In the early 1980s many of my former classmates, and even some of our professors, from the New England Conservatory in Boston began reinventing themselves as computer programmers. Granted, the computer field was burgeoning in those years, but there was still plenty of competition to get into training programs and to land good jobs, and time and time again former musicians jumped to the proverbial head of the class. Of course they were disciplined and hardworking (try earning your living as a musician for a few years and almost anything else will seem easy by comparison), But whether or not musical training is good preparation for mathematical endeavors and whether or not there is a common set of aptitudes which could be expressed in either discipline, there certainly seemed to be a close relationship between musical ability and success as a programmer. Continued...


Book Series: