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How Music and Mathematics Relate

Narrated by: David Kung
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
4 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Summary

Great minds have long sought to understand the relationship between music and mathematics. Both involve patterns, structures, and relationships. Both generate ideas of great beauty and elegance. Music is a fertile testing ground for mathematical principles, while mathematics explains the sounds instruments make and how composers put those sounds together. 

Understanding the connections between music and mathematics helps you appreciate both, even if you have no special ability in either field - from knowing the mathematics behind tuning an instrument to understanding the features that define your favorite pieces. By exploring the mathematics of music, you also learn why non-Western music sounds so different, gain insight into the technology of modern sound reproduction, and start to hear the world around you in exciting new ways. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2013 The Great Courses (P)2013 The Teaching Company, LLC

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Impossible to follow even with the pdf

This is clearly the audio from a video production. I thought that the pdf attached would fill in the gaps but it's just a transcript of the lecture with a few decorations like a picture of some African drums in the section on polyrhythms. It adds nothing to the comprehension of the lecture.

The mathematical content varies from the elementary to university level (group theory!) so often not for the general audience. i skipped several sections as they are impossible to follow just on audio. I have a physics degree.

The content is an arbitrary mix. There is nothing at all about harmony for example. The parts on pitch are solid as the maths are intrinsic but other sections are very weak on connecting the music with the maths.

What finished me listening to this lecture series was the section on self referencing. The connections he was trying to make were close to non-existent. As for internal self referencing in a piece of music, well that is simply bringing back an earlier theme or motif. That's just part a basic part of music and to say there are 'many examples' is understating it. That has nothing at all to do with cutting up a möbius strip - which of course we could only hear.





8 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Audio Tease. Watch the Brilliant Video.

Given that this particular edition of The Great Courses is about music, one would think that listening to audio only would suffice. However, very early on, and throughout, our esteemed lecturer in music and math constantly refers to the rich content of images, pictures, diagrams, graphs. He employs physical demonstrations on his beautiful violin and asks you to look at how he’s performing a particular technique. He does the same with piano and novelty instruments such as the Whirly Tube.

We are to visually appreciate and analyse sine waves and compare the graphical frequency spectrums of different instruments playing the same note in order to distinguish timbre and the harmonic series.

This is as much a visual course as it is an auditory one. The production quality is first class. However, the medium of an audiobook is not the format The Great Courses was created for. By listening to the audio only, I felt very much left out in the cold. As if the lecture hall was full and I could only hear from outside by pressing my ear to the door. Imagine watching a movie with your eyes closed. I thought I could bear it, but after two hours into this eight hour course (with constant reference to visuals) I just couldn’t take missing out any longer.

The Great Courses have an app in the App Store with a 14-day free trial (although the full memberships are cheaper if you sign up via their website and not through the in-app purchase). I am now watching the same course using the free trial and the visuals and production quality are far superior than I even hoped or anticipated.

I love this course, but the audio only version is an absolute tease. If you’re happy missing out on all the visuals, then it’s fine on this platform. But if you want the course in its full original glory which means getting maximum educational benefit, insight and understanding then go for the real thing.

This is not the first Great Courses production I’ve listened to on Audible. Some are perfectly fine as audio only. For the first time however, I’ve realised that How Music and Mathematics Relate is not one of those courses.

Enjoy!

5 people found this helpful

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  • JFH
  • 30-06-19

You would do better with the video version

The Great Courses offer many courses in both audio and video. Sometimes the video portions of a lecture are of minor importance and the audio serves perfectly well. In this course, there are many instances where I wish I could have seen what Professor Kung was doing, including graphic representations of tones and overtones.
Professor Kung states at the beginning that a large part of the course will be devoted to understanding the mathematical formulas that can be used to described various aspects of music, especially the use of sines, cosines, and various sophisticated mathematical formulas. These are very hard to follow in the audio, although they can be seen in the course book. I really wasn't much interested in the math, but that's my own choice. Others might really enjoy it.
All that being said, I still give the course a 3. Kung has lots of interesting and understandable information and I am glad I waded through it. If I had a better knowledge of math and had seen it on video, I am sure it would have rated a 5.

9 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-06-19

missing pdf

I WILL AMEND THIS RATING ONCE THE FOLLOWING IS ADDRESSED. where is the PDF That is supposed to accompany it? I have had this problem with other audio books as well... but some of the content of this audio book seems to lend itself to the visuals.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-03-20

No visuals provided! Very hard to follow without.

This *sounds* like a really great set of lectures, but it's impossible to know because none of the important visuals are provided. There is a text provided, but it's essentially just a transcript of the audio. None of the equations or graphs being referred to by the lecturer are presented.

Very hard to follow without this critical information.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • M. Galyean
  • 08-12-19

Sound engineering suffers, good content

For a series on music and sound it was alarming how many sound production gaffs survived the process. Examples stated to be in stereo aren't. The Bach forward / retrograde duet excerpt was complete silence. Interesting subject with a knowledgeable presenter, but the audiobook seems a mere afterthought

2 people found this helpful

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  • Daniel Patrick
  • 29-04-19

Outstanding job of relating Music & Math. A+

If the title is appealing to you, then you will enjoy this course. Insightful, entertaining and just wonderful.

3 people found this helpful