The Music Diet

            The average American spends four hours and five minutes listening to music every day. On eating, drinking, and physical activity (moderate exercise), all of which are currently considered essential necessities of life, the average American spends roughly a combined one hour and forty-five minutes per day. On the latter examples, there have been countless studies, experiments, and theories as to how these activities affect overall health. Indeed, organizations and individuals worldwide continuously advise the population about healthy ways to eat and exercise. However, studies and governmental advice on what music is healthy to listen to is deficient, even though the average person spends nearly three times the amount of time on listening to music than these other absolute necessities. A short look at the influence of music on society and individuals shows just how important a musical diet can be.

            One of the top questions of the early twenty-first century posed by journalists was "what's on your iPod?" In other words, what music do you listen to (for four hours per day)? This question is considered relevant, and a favorite among interviewers and journalists, because it operates under the assumption that the music one listens to reveals much about that particular person. Naturally, many people do agree that music tells something about one's personality and character traits. An intriguing question that stems from this idea is: does the personality influence the music, or does the music influence the personality? It is quite possible that both scenarios are accurate.

            The effects of music on society is wide and extensive. Some of the most creative minds in the world have received profound insight and direction from music. Notably, this was true for Albert Einstein, who stated, "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music." The enjoyment and inspiration Einstein derived from music cannot be overstated. Another more recent mind, Steve Jobs, said, "Music is so deep within all of us...", and he made it a key mission of Apple to expand music's role in society with products like the iPod and iPhone. He also received deep inspiration from Bob Dylan and the Beatles, who affected his personality and rebel outlook on life. The examples here are grand and positive cases, but for many individuals, music carries a wide range of effects. These effects contain a variety of emotions and feelings, including inspiration, joy, sadness, frustration, anger, and mental energy.

            Just how long has music been a major part of human existence? The discovery of a small bone flute calculates the range of musical influence to be at least forty-thousand years old. Not only that, but music played a role in many crucial time periods in history, including ancient Greece, where philosopher musicians such as Plato, Anaximander, and Pythagoras intently studied aspects of theoretical and practical music. The enlightenment was surrounded by brilliant composers like Mozart and Bach in Europe. At the end of the day, there are very few practices as ancient and modern as music.

            With the widespread impact music currently exhibits on society, as well as throughout history, perhaps listening habits are worth further examination. If the average person were to listen to four hours of healthy, mentally stimulating music per day, how might that influence human behavior and psychology? It is an interesting question. Unfortunately, a definitive answerwill have to wait until additional research surfaces. In the meantime, it is enough to note the significance of music on day-to-day life, and to contemplate what musical diet can help us along the way.



Stutz, Colin. "The Average American Listens to Four Hours of Music Each Day." Spin. Spin, 19 June 2014. Web. 14 April 2016.

"American Time Use Survey." Bureau of Labor Statistics. ATUS, n.d. Web. 14 April 2016.

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. EBook.

"Albert Einstein." Xplore Inc, 2016. 12 April 2016.

M = m

            The field of mathematics has been a source of monumental discovery and realization for over 3,000 years, especially when used in conjunction with another medium. Architecture, engineering, physics, and communication have all reached previously unknown heights when combined with mathematical thinking. Likewise, music has carried a tremendous amount of influence on humanity throughout the ages. It has especially stimulated art and creativity, while at the same time displaying the ability to transform emotions and shape behavior and personality. There are many aspects in the field of music that are still very mysterious. For instance, how is it that a simple combination of sounds from a piece of wood causes a person to cry, or dance, or both? Despite the rich history of these two fields, they seem in the public eye to have grown further apart over the years. In a recent TED talk, one professor frustratingly raised the question, "Why not admit there is a problem with mathematics and music?" (Formosa). With a little simple analysis of some congruent principles, one can see that there might not be a problem with math and music after all.

            One of the easiest shared concepts to understand between math and music is the idea of the octave, or doubling. In music, an octave is a musical tone seemingly the same as another, only higher or lower in pitch. In mathematics, the exponential function or, more specifically, doubling, functions in a highly similar manner. Just like the octave, any doubled number or multiple of two can easily be reduced, leaving the essence of the number intact. A musical octave is attained by dividing or multiplying a string or flow of air exactly by the number two. In other words, without the alternative musical terminology, one could say that the octave literally equals two!

            Like the octave, every other musical tone that exists can be defined using simple math terms. In the words of Harry Partch, a twentieth century pioneer of new music, "Tone is number, and since a tone in music is always heard in relation to one or several other tones­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­–actually heard or implied–we have at least two numbers to deal with: the number of the tone under consideration and the number of the tone heard or implied in relation to the first tone. Hence, the ratio" (76). Ratios, as Partch implies, contain valuable information about musical tones themselves: namely, they reveal the relationships of tones (intervals) through number interactions, and they relate the number of vibrations and cycles inherent inside all musical notes. Not only do mathematical ratios share scientific and intellectual information, but they also state the accurate physical measurements needed for tones and instruments. When the length of a string or sound hole are taken into consideration, ratios give the musician an exact dimension on where to place the fingers or frets. For example, to hear a sonic form of a mathematical ratio, simply pick a ratio of the total length of a string, say 3/4, measure it out with a ruler, and play. This successful experiment will render the whole musical spectrum of tonal relationships to be as simple as 1/1, 3/2, and 4/3.

            On a deeper level, math and music can work to explain the sonic and musical phenomena that escape conscious perception. This can be achieved through more research in the areas of string waves, string motion, the effects of music on the body and matter, and how sound distributes into the atmosphere. Studies on the effects of music on the body and neurology have lately been particularly prominent, as seen in highly successful books such as This is Your Brain on Music (Levitin). A study by the Academy of Finland has shown that music engages "wide networks in the brain, including areas responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity." These groundbreaking findings show what is possible when music, math, and technology work together. In addition, math and music have been instrumental in developing important theories in the field of physics, particularly wave theory. "Physics of music is really the physics of waves. We will concentrate on sound waves, but all waves behave in a similar way. Wave theory is probably the most important concept in physics and especially modern physics, much more so than projectile motion and classical mechanics" (Gibson). As shown, there have already been many breakthroughs from the empirical study of music, and perhaps the best findings are yet to come.

            After shortly examining the striking similarities between math and music, it is possible to find a new perspective on both fields. While music, presently perceived as a "right-brain" activity, and math, perceived as a "left-brain" activity, stand seemingly worlds apart in the public eye, they are in reality like the right and left hemispheres of the brain: part of a cohesive whole that work brilliantly together. In the end, math and music have always been part of a common goal: to understand, discover, and connect with existence more fully. When these two fields, of which separately have accomplished awesome feats for humanity, come together, their impact will be multiplied by two, or in other words, their impact will go up an octave. Same thing, right?



Works Cited

Formosa, Dan. "Why Not Admit There is a Problem With Math and Music? Dan Formosa at TEDxDrexelU." Online video presentation. YouTube. YouTube, 9 Jun 2012. 31 March 2016.

Partch, Harry. Genesis of a Music. 2nd Ed. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1974. Print.

Levitin, Daniel J. This is Your Brain on Music: TheScience of a Human Obsession. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland). "Listening to music lights up the whole brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 December 2011. <>.

Gibson, George N. "Why Learn Physics Through Music?" Uconn. Uconn, n.d. Web. 31 March 2016.

The Aural Singularity

            Does the infinite really exist? For now, the constraints of perception may keep humanity from reaching a definitive answer to this all-encompassing question. Restricted knowledge of concepts is inherent, but this does not stop many minds around the world from attempting to grasp the anomaly of infinity. One fascinating way to experience the infinite is through a particular field in which it is overwhelmingly present. These boundless fields consist of numbers and mathematics, color, gravitational singularities, perhaps universes (Kaku), time itself, and an old cliché, human stupidity. Curiously, most of these divisions have been the source for great leaps of discovery. This paper briefly examines another way of experiencing and working with the infinite: the way of music.

            Consider the following very simple thought experiment: if one number is selected from the vastness of mathematics, then divided in half continuously, is there ever a limit reached? It is a concept such as this that leads one straight into infinity. Likewise, if a musical interval of, say, 100 cents, is continuously divided in half, no limit can be reached. The same endless divisions can be said for the string of an instrument. While this is of course impractical for many modern, popular instruments, perhaps instruments in the near future could make this a practical capability, in the same way that calculators are capable of generating a staggering amount of numbers.

            Every time a string vibrates or a musical tone sounds, a series of harmonics (or their close cousins, partials and overtones) instantly sounds at the same time. When harmonics are taken into account, the infinite nature of music perhaps becomes more apparent. Though the harmonic series is musical at heart, mathematicians have conceivably studied it in further detail throughout the years, and they have come to the conclusion that it is a sequence of numbers, or frequencies, that indeed extends into infinity (Weisstein). With this realization, keep in mind when listening to, or playing, music, that a representation of infinity is happening with every tone, and every rhythm, and every chord struck. Unfortunately, somewhere down the line, the harmonics become lost above or below the range of human perception. Luckily, however, any harmonic interval can be rescued back into conscious perception by mathematically locating the harmonic, then dividing it until it falls into hearing range.

            Self-expression is thought of as a major goal among musicians and artists alike. In an infinite music space, self-expression could be fine-tuned in the most intricate fashion, and individuality would have the chance of becoming commonplace. Think about this: there are nearly countless ways an individual looks at, and feels about, the world. In fact, it is likely safe to say that no one in the history of humanity has been, in totality, the exact same as another. This is also true for musical tones and rhythms. With no two tones being alike, players and composers would be able to capture the most detailed sonic form of their feelings and visions. Take an example: if any note from a well-known piece of music, like Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", was altered by a mere 20 cents, it would diverge the atmosphere and feeling for the listener, albeit subtle. It is these faint differences that could bring significant assistance to those who are searching to find their own voice.

            A brief look at the nature of key musical components has revealed music's plausible connection to the infinite and, consequently, everything. According to legendary saxophonist, Charlie Parker, "They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art." When the boundary line is removed from the limitless ocean of music, the art will flow like never before. Once music becomes recognized as a new member of the infinity alliance, then musicians everywhere can break away from a small planet, and go exploring out into the aural cosmos.



Works Cited

Kaku, Michio. Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2006. Print.

 Weisstein, Eric W. "Series." Mathworld. Wolfram Research, n.d. Web. 2 March 2016.

 Parker, Charlie. "About Charlie 'Yardbird' Parker - Quotes." CMG Worldwide. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 March 2016.