Math & Music

6a00d8341bf67c53ef016762dd7cc4970b-800wiHow can two completely opposite disciplines combine?  It may have already occurred to you but for me it was a surprising union.  Here’s a blah, geeky definition of math,

the systematic treatment of magnitude, relationships between figures and forms, and relations between quantities expressed symbolically.

Isn’t that exciting and make you want to get up and dance the night away?  Yet that is what math does.  Without mathematical wonders that most of us ignored in school produces the structured music that allows us to dance without falling on our feet.

Structure?  Who’d associated that with the strong feelings that music oozes forth on our first date or “our” wedding song or the song you hear thirty years later that evokes a memory as though it was yesterday.

How did Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart and Spanky and Our Gang pull it off by tidying together two such strong and diverse disciplines?  Is it the melody that fills the head first and then the structuring or vise versa?  Passion or numbers.  I’m told that Paul McCartney can’t read music so it must be true.  Or is it firstly that all rigid, rock-strong structure that presents us with melodies that make us cry, laugh, or hum along with.  And what about humming?  Does our shower time need to be structured?  Do those loosely hum-able, wet mumbles need to be placed on five bland lines complete with sharps and flats?    That song that fills your head for some reason throughout the day has a complete and utterly unbending system to it that seems to defy the good feeling you receive by reliving it.

I officiated at a wedding with a young couple in their 20’s.  One’s a astrophysicist and the other is a nuclear physicist.  I began the Mass saying that the three of us will never compete for a job but I hope that today their making beautiful music together.

Opposites do attract and their harmonies can last generations if not centuries.  I have no idea about its structure but I love the result – melodies singing about love, life, unions, divorce or just enjoying a Sunday morning.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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