Music Monday: Pretty Math

AlgebraI took one of those Briggs-Meyers Psychology Tests recently

If you haven’t taken one, I suggest you do every now and then. It’s like getting your tarot cards read…by science!

I’m told that I’m INTP, though my T/F is off by a 1% margin, so I’m on a borderline between an obsessive writer who toils over specific words and concepts…and a mathematician. This makes a great deal of sense to me, as was illustrated by my friend, who pointed out that I compose arguments “musically.” I’ve always seen it as mathematically.

INTPs are referred to as “architects.” I’m not good when it comes to generation, like making one note follow another and poof, music. But I’m nigh prodigious when we scope out to the next step: I’ll never grasp just that 2+2=4; I’ll also be thinking 4=2+2, 2=4-2 and how can I apply this to life. I’m less likely to solve math problems than I am to actually make them more complicated because I find them pretty.

That’s partially why I failed math one year.


So what does this all have to do with music?

I don’t have to think hard to find the best example of a song composed this way. We’re going back to the 90s again, but this time by way of an electric violinist and one of my first forays into classical music.

What I “hear” in this track is something very similar to a math set…and also, a house. The very first transition is the clearest, at 1:13, when the prelude, which is the sonic equivalent of an opening foyer, cuts out with an orchestra sting into Bach’s iconic progression. It’s like moving from a big open room to a long hallway. But such a progression isn’t sustainable—it’s like how when people clap in a stadium, it gets progressively faster until the rhythm cannot possibly sustain itself, and must change.

Vanessa Mae takes Bach’s original exploration of driving ideas to their end and follows them up through several atmospheres. At one point, there’s even a seemingly Afro-inspired drum chant, which if you were to ever pause, you might think, “How did we ever get here from that starting line…?” Okay, yes, the synth didgeridoo line was a byproduct of 90s sonic exploration and we can argue about whether or not the dead composer would approve, but think less about the voices of the argument and more about the structure of the argument itself. If each section was a “room,” this track would be a mansion…or different chunks of a math set.

At around 2:48, a computer voice instructs the listener to “fasten their seatbelt” (another 90s trope, the Siri-style instructional computer voice sample), and then we launch into the main argument of the track. People’s voices do sometimes sound flutey, or violiny, and when we speak in argument our pitch wavers, so is it impossible to think that Bach (specifically this track) could be sung to the tune of a Congressional hearing?

If nothing else, it makes some pretty, pretty math.


Photo: albastrica mititica/Flickr


3 responses to “Music Monday: Pretty Math

  1. I think this is why I love having you edit my work. Most people just shuffle around what’s written; you have the ability to see the other half of the equation and the things that haven’t quite been said yet and draw them out. Perfect rainy Monday tune, too!

  2. Pingback: Music Monday: New Horizons | The Diary of a Fledgeling Yogi·

  3. That is fascinating because I am an INTP that is basically split even on the T/F quotient. How funny!

    I’ve found the innate INTP nature gives me: a laser-sharp focus (which sometimes results in me missing other things around me because of being “in the zone”) and the drive to understand. The F gives me a drive for harmony in my environment and keeps me from being grinchy!

    I understand what you are saying about the 4=2+2 and 4-2=2 and wondering how it applies to your life. I feel like people of our type tend to be sponges with our eyes wide open to all the information around us, and then we internalize it and figure out how it fits in our “architecture” and adjust as necessary.

    I love reading your Music Monday posts. I may not always like the music itself, but the posts are always good brain food.

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