Art, Math & Philosophy, Oh My!

Do you ever have those moments when you see pieces of your life come together in one place and it just makes sense  – who you are as a person, the things you like, the dreams you’ve had, the things you’ve done? When you realize that all of that had to happen to bring you to now so that now you could be in just the right spot?

This has happened to me numerous times, but the latest took place this past week. I finished reading a book called Temperament by Stuart Isacoff, which explores the development of equal temperament  (dividing the octave into 12 equally-sized half-steps.) What intrigued me most was how many mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers argued over the issue of how to tune instruments, primarily the keyboard instruments such as the organ and piano. As I read to be more informed about things related to composition and all things musical, I realized that all the various interests I have had over the course of my life were being covered in one place.

When I was very young, I wanted to be an artist. I did, however, quickly learn that visual art was not my forte when I designed a clay coin purse to give to my mother. It didn’t quite open and close once it went through the kiln. I can follow directions rather well, but I gave up on the idea of creating any visual art stemming from my own mind. Music alone is where my artistic talent resides.

Throughout elementary school, I was convinced I wanted to be a scientist. I spent hours doing experiments and using my microscope. Then came my interest in math. I was good at it. I wasn’t the whizziest whiz kid in my class, but I had enough skill to seriously consider a STEM-field career. When I was taking AP Calculus in high school, I found it so fun and intriguing that I briefly considered following my dad’s footsteps into majoring in math at college.

Everyone who has ever known me knows I am also deeply philosophical. “Metaphysics” became part of my vocabulary when I was twelve.  I still ask why as much as any three-year-old. I spend much of every day pondering the depths of the universe, and I will talk about it with anyone who has the patience.

In the end, music won my heart.  Now I understand why.  It encompasses everything. Art? Music composition is my creative outlet. Science? Those sound waves are actually really important. Math? I just read words in a book about music that are not usually used outside of trigonometry. For fun. Philosophy? Why does it matter whether or not intervals are equally tuned? Does a universal rule governing the proportions of intervals exist? If so, does humankind have the right to alter it? These are important questions!

Though I have studied music from a very young age, I only dabbled in composition until five years ago when I took my first lesson.  If I had any doubts that it was a good decision to finally get around to seriously composing, reading this book confirmed for me that I am heading in the right direction as it scratched the itch of various interests I have had since childhood.

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