Sunday, May 04, 2014

Music and Mathematics

What is it that makes music so much like a prayer? Why is it that a single bass line or a root chord can form just barely intangible foundations? My colleagues and I understand the mechanisms behind this; the solutions to the wave equations, the Bessel functions, the spherical harmonics, the Fourier analysis, frequencies, amplitudes, everything that goes into the physics of sound...but that's just the heart of the mathematics. The heart of the matter, or rather, the heart of what really matters, is something far more complicated and extraordinary; something incalculable. Something that doesn't always make logical sense, and yet, it persists.

This is personal. It's also uncomfortable, I suppose, but it's necessary because this is how we express the things for which we do not have the language. These are the tears of frustration and brokenness that fall down my cheeks as I'm trying to explain the things for which my heart breaks and can't; I'm simply repeating words and movements until I realize that this isn't just a habitual motion as much as it is a dance, and this isn't just a story as much as it is a song. Because I can't feel the convective cycle of my soul until I realize this, and ride the chaos all the way down to my core.

And, to yours.

The people with whom I make music are the people with whom I share my spirit. I become transparent through my vocal chords and piano keys and guitar strings, and this is why singing is so terrifying. We aren't afraid that we're "not that good" as much as we're afraid to expose our spirits. Music is one of the most difficult, beautiful, honest things that a person can do. It moves us in directions we didn't even know existed. It exposes all of our vulnerabilities and repressed emotions, thoughts, feelings, hopes, prayers. It requires collaboration and connection. It demands that we let go. All of the things that we find so hard to do in each of our individual journeys and healing processes, all of the things that take so much time and therapy and medicine and community and grace...these things are mandatory to create music. 

So, I forget sometimes. I live in academia and when I feel sad, I can find another academic with whom I can sort through the logical flaws in whatever has gone awry. I can solve some mathematics and physics problems. I can find energy eigenstates, without recognizing the state of my own energy. But until I realize that simply doing these things will never be enough, I feel as if all of the dark energy in the universe is sweeping me through empty space at relativistic speeds with no real comprehension of what is really going on. Because I stretch much deeper than the textbooks can tell me. I reach farther and I feel deeper. I notice. I want something genuine as a foundation without the possibility of a random scattering state throwing me off, somewhere. 

And the thing that I find to be the most genuine is my music-loving soul, the one that finds enough gumption to sing its way through every trauma and terror and mistake and failure of my life, whatever that looks like. I can do the work, but I'd rather feel it. Mathematics may be musical, but music is not only mathematics. Music is my prayer. It is my first language, it is my first love. It is how I find courage, and it is how I find community.

So let's make some music. And mean it.

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