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Pabitra Mukhopadhyay


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Maths came before music

The moment consciousness can differentiate many from one, it becomes fundamentally mathematically endowed. This is the precursor of axiomatic tautology of mathematics that can, given enough combinations, get as complex as you can imagine.
Mathematical skill therefore should predate musical skill in human evolution.


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  • Jun 28 2013: I can't imagine it takes mathematical skills to make pots of varying sizes, fill them with water and and then strike them to get different tones. To observe relationships of form and sound does not require knowledge of numbers. Anyone can mess around with a nice stick, bore some holes and make noise. Sure, patterns and timing can be represented in mathematical form, but this does not imply exclusivity to mathematics.

    I also don't believe that it takes mathematical skills to feel or carry rhythm. I'm no musician, but I do play the guitar once in a while, and when I'm just making up songs as I go, not a single number runs through my thoughts, I just play.

    However, I do entertain the notion that musical skill as we know it today has roots in mathematics. This can be traced back thousands of years, but if one were to suggest that mathematics came before music, I'd say they're wrong.

    As well, Common Meter is every where... and yes, it can be syllable counts such as, or rhyming schemes such as a-b-a-b-c-d-c-d, but I'd argue that mathematics isn't what allowed for us to create these things, it's more intrinsic.

    Music is the shorthand of emotion.
    Leo Tolstoy

    All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.
    Jean Cocteau

    A little Devil's advocate:
    Is it numbers that created music, or is it music that created the numbers associated with it. Are numbers even real?

    Our brains seek patterns, adjusts, then expects and predicts what's next... to create from these observations and place into form doesn't require mathematics. Even if crude in form, music may still manifest.
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      Jun 29 2013: Oh, but it does.
      Pots are more than one pot - mathematical ability. Filling with more water than less water - mathematical ability. Different tones are more than one note - mathematical ability.
      One may like to see mathematical skill as more fundamental than you are saying it to be.
      I am not discussing about numbers or decimal counts at all. There are other kinds of numbers possible on different bases. But the ability to quantize the reality and sensing there are more things than one is fundamental. Even for extraterrestrial maths this should be valid.
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      Jun 30 2013: John, you have convinced me music came first! One could sing or whistle through ones lips, and create music without any math.

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