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SAVY 2019: Session 5, Day 1 – Math and Music (Rising 5th/6th)

Posted by on Monday, July 15, 2019 in Grade 5, Grade 6, SAVY.

Hello, parents of mathemusicians! We spent almost the entirety of the day listening to, responding to, and discussing music, specifically the compositional techniques that artists use that incorporate some mathematical elements into them. We began with a look at sonata form and how it still pervades music today. Sonata form typically contains two themes, and this class is no different.

The first theme is that “the more things change musically, the more they stay the same.” Today saw us compare Beethoven to Stevie Wonder, Bach to Lady Gaga, Bartok to Dave Brubeck, and more! We had conversations about musical structure as well as the role that technology has played in the evolution of music, both in its presentation and distribution.

The second theme is that “no matter how mathematical music is, music ultimately will affect us in ways that mathematics cannot explain.” We introduced this theme by looking at a song from West Side Story and discussing how literally (if at all) we should take the score. Today was mostly a “theme 1 day,” but we will develop theme 2 much more later in the week!

Finally, at the end of the day, I sat down to perform a piece for the students. Little did they know that it was going to be “4’33”” by John Cage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4%E2%80%B233%E2%80%B3). My performance was interesting, punctuated by a brief percussion interlude from the audience followed by an outburst of applause early in the third movement.

Beginning tomorrow, we will split up into two teams to start working on our big project for the week, which is a debate surrounding whether this piece is actually music or not. I am excited to see what sorts of arguments these students come with! We will also spend some time tomorrow learning some introductory music theory, which will be helpful for our studies later in the week.

Students should be bringing home a folder with them that contains materials from the week. Today’s should just contain a notes packet pertaining to the musical selections from the day, but we will add many handouts to it over the course of the week. Please remember to bring the folder back and forth with you each day. Thank you to all of the students for a great first day!