Mark once tried to describe the attraction of maths to me: “It’s quite simple. In a way it’s banal. Maths and beauty is the same thing, but they’re separated. When you find a formula, you can bring numbers and beauty into the same. When you don’t understand a formula, there’s disorder. Discord. Like static noise inside your head. But you can unite them. You have to unite them. When you understand how a formula works, you can see how things actually are, and how beautiful things really are.”
The thing is that I can see this, but it’s like watching through a smeared lens. I can’t make a better analogy than that. Once Mark tried to show me how music is maths, and it really is. Meter, rhyme, beat, sixteenth notes, tempo. It’s all about numbers. From the current charts to Lucia Popp’s ‘Queen of the Night”. It’s numbers united into a particular formula, and it is beautiful.
I wasn’t bad at maths, and I even enjoyed it in school, but I never had the interest. But from when I was a kid to now, Mum has tried to say this too, except with other words. She has tried to show me the beauty of the world through maths. She has tried to show me the matter, how it interacts with other matter, and together they form everything. And the way matter interacts with other things is a formula, and it is beautiful.
It was my fate not to become a science geek. I always fell into art and craft, writing and music. I have, however, never fallen for the prevailing ideal that maths is hard or difficult or bad – something that I find afflict many of the other artsy geeks. They try to say there’s this big conflict, when there isn’t one.
When they write a poem, when they write an aria, or when they strum out a song on the guitar in their bedrooms – they are using maths and formulas, but it is an intuitive understanding of these things that allow them to build a large separation between art and science. The separation is artificial, false.
Think of this when you string a bunch of sixteenth and eighth notes together into a series defined by execution over time. You are writing music to a formula you intuitively know, and when you succeed you unite numbers and the formula and create something of beauty.