It is only in the contemporary times that we differentiate between the fields of science and arts, but history shows us that there is a deep connection between the two and the universe is the proof for it.

Maths and music are related it’s evident as music includes vibrations, pitch, amplitude which is a certain mathematical sequence to form a melody. But have you ever wondered what does those celestial bodies, or for that matter earth sounds like? The universe doesn’t seem to be loud, there is a whole lot of silence then how can we hear the music?

The universe silence is because of the vacuum and the sound needs a medium to propagate, however, this does not mean that there isn’t music. All the celestial bodies in the universe-black holes, stars, galaxies, planets including earth-through their motions in the universe create a vibration which if amplified to the hearing range of 20hz-2000hz can allow us to listen to the amazing music it has to offer.

The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was the first to identify the precise relation between the pitch of the musical note and the length of the string, therefore the first to uncover a quantitative relation between music and mathematics. Any vibrating object makes overtones or harmonics, which are a series of notes that emerge from a single vibrating object. These notes form the harmonic series: 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, etc. The fundamental musical concept is probably that of the octave. A musical note is a vibration of something, and if you double the number of vibrations, you get a note an octave higher (octave is the note which is the basis for all the notes of music we know to exist); likewise, if you halve the number of vibrations, it is an octave lower. And how is this connected to our modern music?

According to an article from space and motion “The modern musical scale divides the octave into 12 equal steps, called half-tones. 12 is an important number on Western music, and it is oddly also an important number in our time-keeping and measurement systems. The frets of a guitar are actually placed according to the 12th root of 2, and 12 frets go halfway up the neck, to the octave, which is halfway between the ends of the strings. On fretted instruments, we are playing irrational numbers! And any of you who have trouble tuning your guitars might get a clue as to why they are so hard to tune. Our ears don’t like the irrational numbers, but we need them to make complex chordal music. The students of music must learn to accept the slight dissonances of the Western scale in order to tune the instrument and to play the music.”

This table provides some of the ratios and their corresponding tune (note) on the instrument.

Note Ratio Interval
0 1:1 Unison
1 135:128 major chroma
2 9:8 major second
3 6:5 minor third
4 5:4 major third
5 4:3 perfect fourth
6 45:32 diatonic triton
7 3:2 perfect fifth
8 8:5 minor sixth
9 27:16 Pythagorean major sixth
10 9:5 minor seventh
11 15:8 major seventh
12 2:1 Octave

There are many more complex ratios that create sounds other than mentioned in the table.

Though music is not considered science, today it has been an integral subject to study during the Middle Ages. In Oxford, quadrivium music was studied together (the idea was presented by Boethius) with arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy as it was concerned with the teaching of age-old science of “the harmonics”- the study of the mathematical roots of harmony it in the context of Ptolemaic astronomy, which was itself a part of the quantitative harmony of the spheres ‘tradition’. The universe (the motions of the planets and stars) was considered to be built on ‘musical’ harmonic principles – the same principles of harmony found in practical music.

There is also an ancient philosophy called ‘Musica Universalis’ which means music of the universe. It regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the Sun, Moon, and planets—as a form of music. Even Johannes Kepler did a lot of work in this area which influenced his work of astronomy.

In contemporary times some of the music which is based on Musica Universalis like Music of the Spheres by Mike Oldfield, Om by the Moody Blues, The Earth Sings Mi Fa Mi album by The Receiving End of Sirens, Music of the Spheres by Ian Brown, and Björk’s single Cosmogony, included in her 2011 album Biophilia. Earlier, in the 1910s, Danish composer Rued Langgaard composed a pioneering orchestral work titled Music of the Spheres. Music of the Spheres was also the title chosen for the musical foundation of the video-game Destiny and was composed by Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori, and Paul McCartney. Paul Hindemith wrote an Opera (1957), and a Symphony using the same music, called ‘Die Harmonie der Welt’ based upon the life of the Astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630).

So maybe we can conclude that in this orchestra of the universe we might be some kind of musical instrument too. All we have to do is to listen carefully and try to put in harmony.

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