The Silent Music of Mathematics
DOI link for The Silent Music of Mathematics
The Silent Music of Mathematics book
The thoughts which follow result from a combination of two events which took place last Christmas. One of these was a visit from a niece of mine who has two bright children aged seven and eight. She wa.s worried because all the mathematics they did at school was pages of 'sums.' Shortly before this, we had heard and seen a performance of Benjamin Britten's beautiful Ceremony of Carols. This was introduced by Britten's lifelong friend Peter Pears, who related how it had been composed by Britten at sea, in a cramped cabin with no piano or other musical instrument on which Britten could hear what he was composing. Afterwards, I began to wonder how such music could be composed under these conditions. How could he know how wonderful it would sound in performance? Maybe he sang to himself, some of it. But he could only sing one part at a time, and what about the harp? My answer cannot be more than a conjecture; but I think we may assume that like many other composers he was able to write music directly from his head onto paper because he could hear the music in his mind. The musical notation represented for him patterns of sound, sequential and simultaneous.