Musical Geometry

The whole point of making these geometric spaces is that, at the end of the day, it helps you understand music better.

– Professor Dmitri Tymoczko, Princeton University

Recently, scientists have demonstrated that music has geometry. This Telegraph article describes the way in which music can be analysed and described visually, in what is being dubbed “geomtrical music theory.” The concept, pioneered by Princeton professor Dmitri Tymoczko in 2006, attempts to revolutionize the way music is described and perceived by using complex multidimensonal visual representations, instead of 2-dimensional musical notation.

This Time article from 2007 is a bit more enlightening. It points out that there has never been a way to explain how musical styles relate to one another, and Prof. Tymoczko states, “No matter where you go to school, you learn almost exclusively about classical music from about 1700 to 1900. It’s kind of ridiculous.” He’s right, and his new form of musical geometry can change all that:

Borrowing some of the mathematics that string theorists invented to plumb the secrets of the physical universe, he has found a way to represent the universe of all possible musical chords in graphic form.

Tymoczko’s calls them “orbifolds:” the multidimensional spaces that describe notes and chords. Thes shapes twist back on themselves, much like a Möbius strip. In fact, 2-note chords DO inhabit a Möbius space. The implications are huge, from both a music appreciation AND compositional standpoint.

For anyone interested in this concept, download Prof. Tymoczko’s “ChordGeometries” to see this effect as applied to Chopin and Deep Purple. It looks/sounds great.


3 Responses to Musical Geometry

  1. Alexander says:

    Everytime I hear Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu, I get this strong image in my head. It is like a warped blue grid, with yellow stars randomly placed.

  2. lithe says:

    Alexander: Sounds like a mild case of synesthesia. Not a bad affliction to have…

  3. […] touched on string theory in a few other posts: Musical Geometry and Music’s Hidden Dimension. String theory gets its name from the theoretical […]

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