SAVY 2019: Session 5, Day 2 – Math and Music (Rising 5th/6th)
We began Math and Music today by splitting up into two teams and laying the groundwork for our John Cage trial later in the week. I was impressed with how well the students worked to come up with their respective definitions of music! Of course the two sides will be presenting different definitions as they try to argue either in favor of or against “4’33”” being music, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out on Friday! We will begin each day with a period of trial research and preparations.
The rest of the morning was spent learning about musical notation and intervals. In addition to the treble and bass clefs, students learned that there are several other clefs that exist but are now rarely used. Unfortunately, we did not have any violists in the room to argue for the necessity of alto clef!
In the afternoon, we read our first excerpt from Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter. We will be looking at three of the dialogues from this book as jumping off places for musical and mathematical discussions. I was quite amazed by student enthusiasm for the Desmos graphing calculator (https://www.desmos.com/calculator). Somehow we ended up making equations that spelled YMCA, all of this out of a desire to understand how to move things left and right!
The end of this particular reading gives an assertion of how Johann Sebastian Bach might have felt about the music of John Cage, specifically “4’33.”” Students wrote a brief response at the end of the day that asked them to address what they thought Bach would think of Cage. I am interested to read their thoughts tonight!
We wrapped up the day by beginning to talk about musical set theory. We will talk about mathematical set theory later this week. Today we worked on classifying sets of pitches into their “normal order,” and we will continue on to learn about a set’s “prime form,” which will also give us a chance to talk about prime numbers mathematically.
All in all, I was quite pleased with the day’s work! It was, in many ways, a more challenging day than day one, but it was so interesting to see the things that they were interested in and wanted to explore. I’m looking forward to exploring more of these things with them throughout the week!
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