Science and music everywhere…

These things have a slow start, and I am probably the first to blame for this. There are several reasons, one of which is that I am (I have to confess) a bit intimidated by the breadth of the subject. I am a musician, not a scientist, although I have a strong interest in that subject. Being an amateur astronomer, it is impossible to ignore the concept of the “Music of the Spheres”, and all the extrapolations we can make at the wave level. A wave is an orb or orbit, and an orbit is a wave, and the two are completely interchangeable. So I will soldier on.

About the music of the spheres, I have a small thought experiment which to me, epitomizes one side of this relationship. Look at the relationship between the three most influential celestial objects in our life: the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. Imagine the moon circling the earth in an almost perfect circle (all orbits in the solar system are ellipses, not perfect circles, but we will make them perfect for this experiment). The moon goes on and on around the earth; this is easy enough to imagine in your mind’s eye. Now imagine the earth itself orbiting around the sun . Just try to think what it does to the path of the moon when you put yourself on the sun (I did say it was a thought experiment!). The observer on the sun sees the moon weaving around the earth. There is no circle anymore, but a “sine wave”, the most pure (and boring) sound. Can you see it? if you can’t quite make it, drawing it it will make sense.

The thought experiment is one of the most productive techniques that physicists and mathematicians use to peer into new concepts. Einstein as a kid was imagining himself riding on a ray of light, asking himself what would the world look like to him from that vantage point.

Of course I am trying to find out what is a musical thought experiment; and it jumps to my mind that we are in a constant thought experiment. At least I am. I can think of two examples:

1. when composing, or actually even more when I am just thinking about new musical ideas; I am always putting them in this or that musical context. Different musical arrangements give me a different point of view, like being on the earth or the sun as in the previous thought experiment, rendering musical ideas almost as different as my perception of a circle or a sine wave.

2. when improvising, a different but related phenomena occur: time loses its grip and takes on a much more free and malleable form.

Now, to close this where I intended to start it. I am helping my wife promote her show which, how appropriate, is a multimedia performance about science and music in the 17th century. You’ll find out all about it here: .In the process I did google the phrase ‘science and music’ together, and came across a lot of interesting stuff, and in the middle of it I found this page.

Be careful for what you wish for!