Why is There no Key of H?

Sponsored by Continuing Studies


Wednesday, October 17, 2007
7:30 pm –
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Campbell Recital Hall, Braun Music Center

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Event Details:

Have you ever wondered about the structure of music—is it merely an accident of history that our music sounds the way it does? We currently send snippets of Bach across galaxies, seeking to tantalize highly developed aliens. Is there any reason they should appreciate our definition of an aesthetically pleasing series of tones? This talk considers our practices of tonal music from the point of view of mathematical physics, and offers mathematical explanations for our experiences of musical pleasure or displeasure. We will ask, and try to answer, the following questions: Is there a logic to musical notation, and a reason why the named notes A through G repeat (rather than continue through the alphabet)? What is the consequence of well-tempered tuning? What would have happened if Beethoven had been happy when he wrote his Symphony No. 5? These questions and others will be addressed through a variety of piano pieces and excerpts, ranging from Chopin to Rachmaninoff, Debussy to Gershwin.


Engineering Consultant; Former Stanford Lecturer/Senior Research Engineer

Steve Winterstein received a PhD from MIT, and has taught mathematical engineering at MIT, Stanford, and UC Berkeley. He began playing the piano at age six, won his first piano competition at nine, and began concertizing with symphony orchestras the following year. Mathematics and music often intersect in his work. This talk began as an effort to show why the perioddoubling dynamics of floating offshore platforms were precisely analogous to the most common and aesthetically pleasing of musical effects: the octave.

Admission Info

FREE; no registration required Open to the public

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