IMI Interdisciplinary Mathematics InstituteCollege of Arts and Sciences

Music and Mathematics

  • Oct. 17, 2011
  • 3:30 p.m.
  • LeConte 412


Music and mathematics share an intertwined intellectual history that dates back to the time of Pythagoras. Music, an art, often benefits from the explanatory precision offered by the science of mathematics. Patterns found in music–particularly in the domains of pitch, timbre, rhythm and form–are often well modeled by mathematical description. In the twentieth century, composers such as Milton Babbitt, Béla Bartók, John Cage, Henry Cowell, Conlon Nancarrow, Edgard Varèse, Iannis Xenakis, and many others, began to consciously exploit ideas from mathematics and related scientific disciplines and use them as a source of inspiration for their music. USC professors Reginald Bain, Fang Man and John Fitz Rogers, all members of the School of Music’s composition faculty, will discuss mathematical ideas that have found their way into the working materials of their compositions. The ideas range from the mathematical representation of sound itself, to the role that process, proportion and algorithm play in composition, to musical sonifications of prime spacing, the Fibonacci series, fractals, and chaos theory.

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