Music · Science · Writing

The Music/Science Solution

“Music and Science don’t go together.”

It’s a common misconception which traps many people, who see the stereotypical angsty musician as a polar opposite to the clinically cold scientist. And thus, like the traditional ‘oil in water’ display of non-polar molecules within a polar solvent, music and science are believed to just not mix. However, as a student of both, I have made it my mission this week to disprove this hypothesis.

In case that clip didn’t explain my theory in itself, let my argument begin.

Firstly, let me start by shattering the musician/scientist juxtaposition using the classic methodology of the ‘name drop’. Consider the specimen of Brian May.

brian may

To some, he is known for his work in astrophysics on the New Horizon’s project into Pluto exploration. To others, he is known as lead guitar for the iconic rock band, Queen. Having outstanding achievements in both fields, Brian May embodies the culmination of music and science.

But music and science do not simply overlap within one person. In actual fact, the two fields draw upon and influence each other to a great extent. I will therefore continue to disprove the aforementioned hypothesis through the illustration of the relativity between these fields.

Combinations of these fields can be experienced through both the intellectual and emotive responses within our minds. Music can help us develop science while science can be used as a tool to further our understanding of music.

I witnessed first-hand the ability to use music as a learning and studying mechanism while observing a workshop held at the 2017 SciFest Africa this week. Learners were taught the phases of chemical bonding through principles of music and dance, using rhythm, tempo and space to illustrate the stages of matter. This exercise solidified the scientific understanding they needed, through the memory and cognitive responses invoked by music.

Numerous studies have suggested that listening to music or using auditory stimulation as a learning method have also greatly increased the retention of information and the consistent completion of tasks. In fact, Daniel J. Levitin explains in his book “This is your brain on music”, that through the use of music, the brain is stimulated in almost every cortex, whether it be through playing, dancing to, listening to or comprehending music.

On the other hand, in music studies, we are taught to read and compose music through mathematic principles of timing measures and the changing of pitch through alterations to the omitted radio wave frequencies. While conducting my own vocal and instrumental training, I was taught how to use the anatomic structure of my body in order to produce a better sound. This is further exemplified in William M. Klemm’s article in Psychology Today, which explains the benefits of the brain’s chemistry through the study and practice of music.

Finally, to quote a lyric from The Script’s “Science and Faith”, ‘You can break everything down to chemicals but you can’t explain a love like ours’. As the song suggests, there are some things that can never fully be explained by science and one of them is the effects of music on humanity. While we can appreciate music’s historical implications, analyse its effects on the brain and monitor its patterns through neuron connections, science has its limits. There are parts of music that cannot be defined, contained or explained through scientific method. And that’s the way it should be.

“Music and Science don’t go together.”

Myth Busted.


All images sourced from Google: No copyright. All videos sourced from YouTube.


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