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Musica Mathematica

Traditions and Innovations in Contemporary Music


Rima Povilionienė

The concept of «musica mathematica» seeks to accurately examine the intersection of two seemingly radically different subject areas. From the perspective of a European perception, the definition of the science of music was a result of the Pythagorean concept of universal harmony. The Pythagoreans were the first in European culture to raise the issue of uniting music and mathematics, sound and number.

In the three parts of the monograph, versatile cases of the intersection of music and mathematics are displayed, moving from philosophical and aesthetic considerations about mathesis to practical studies, discussing the interaction between music and other kinds of art (architecture, painting, poetry and literature), and providing a practical research of contemporary music compositions.

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2. Semantic Aspects of Music Composition


2. Semantic Aspects of Music Composition

The constructive nature of composing contemporary music often correlates with a semantic element, that is, with the rendering of notional underlying implications to a musical composition. Then a certain mathematical phenomenon or a formula, number or a complex of numbers in the musical material is used by a composer both as a working tool and as a symbol accumulating a certain meaning as an all-embracing idea or the contents of a composition. Therefore I raise not only the question “how” or “in what way” a specific number is coded and conveyed in the musical score, but also “why” the texture of music is given a meaning and “what” kind of message is the musical composition.

Different numerological practices of the earlier epochs are applied in the music of the 20th–21st centuries both in a traditional and individual way. In assessing the character of a semantic composing, several tendencies generalizing the authors’ ideas can be distinguished. They are as follows:

• the application of cosmological numeral codes and graphic constructions, which render symbolic meanings of the cosmic structure to the musical architectonics;

• the implementation of kabbalistic symbols (e.g., magic square of numbers) and esoteric principles of the magic of numbers, cases of their use;

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