“Music is the universal language of mankind.”

Me23b256afa2a8a2a2ed6e4261b1a76deHow true, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The other day, I was reminded of a quote from Carl Sagan’s “Contact” where Ellie Arroway states, “Mathematics is the only true universal language.” Upon reflection, is it truly safe to say that this cold and calculated language is truly the best representation for how all mankind expresses itself?  More specifically, can you explain in mathematics how music touches your soul?

While music is based on mathematical principles (tempo, rhythm, etc.), in my opinion there is a synergistic quality inherit in music.  If you are not familiar with synergy, the best (and quickest) way to describe it is that the sum is greater than the parts.  So to illustrate mathematically, synergy states that 1 + 1 + 1 can equal 4.  How can that happen?  Simple. Harmony.  A piece of classical music can be much more than just the sum of each instrument playing a different tune at a different tempo. As many might agree, we come across songs in our lives that “resonate”.  We identify with them.  We relate.  We bond.  It touches us on a level much greater than a series of notes and/or words. This…is synergy.

Remember: It takes math to understand music but music in return cannot enlighten understanding of mathematics.

The song “You Raise Me Up” is such an uplifting song for me. I remember the first time I heard it. It was February 1, 2004. Super Bowl XXXVIII. The New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers. Prior to the game’s start, a dedication to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia (whose disaster occurred the year prior) was made…introducing Josh Groban to sing his new release. I had no idea who he was…but in the moments to come, he made quite an impression.

Like many others, I was very moved by the song. Unfortunately, his performance was overshadowed by the Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Halftime show.

Since then, many other artists have sang this song…and continued to spread the beauty and enjoyment of this piece.

The original:

Celtic Woman

10 year old Li Chengdu / 7 year old Tan Zhi Yun

You Raise Me Up” is a song that was originally composed by the duo Secret Garden. The music was written by Secret Garden’s Rolf Løvland and the lyrics by Brendan Graham. After the song was performed early in 2002 by the Secret Garden and their invited lead singer, Brian Kennedy, the song only became a minor UK hit. The song has been recorded by more than a hundred other artists including Josh Groban, who popularized the song in 2003; his rendition became a hit in the United States.

~ Wikipedia.com

Who knows? Maybe the world may one day put aside their bickering and petty differences and use music to help bridge the gap between cultures.  I think John Keating (Dead Poets Society) said it best.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.

Now medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?”

Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

 

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
― Victor Hugo, Hugo’s Works: William Shakespeare

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