You may ask yourself from time to time the question: why are musicians good at IT? Well, we have a theory about that. We put together the top four reasons that we believe the statement is true and, after you read them, you can decide what you think about it.
Why are musicians good at math?
This is actually the threshold question we must answer. We need to look no further than Albert Einstein to see that math and music go together. Historians say that Albert Einstein was an excellent pianist and a violinist. His second wife, Elsa, told a story about how Einstein when stumped by a math problem took a break to play piano for a while. After two weeks in which he alternated between playing piano and working out math problems, Einstein came out with his first draft of the theory of relativity.
Is there some scientific basis for music and math going together?
Interestingly, Einstein himself once said that he thought in music and saw his life in terms of music. Well, science tells us that there are mathematical relationships when it comes to musical notes and their pitch. We can add to that the syntax and structure of music which is similar to the syntax and structure of mathematics. Great composers like Mozart and Bach were geniuses -- masters we call them -- of counterpoint and polyphony. Polyphony, for example, means a complex musical structure which combines a number of parts. Each of the parts has its own melody but harmonizes with the others. Such structures start out with a simple melody that then combines with another melody and then another -- but in a diminished manner, like a round robin song -- and gets more complicated as the composition moves on.
The following composition rules also support the mathematical structure of music:
- a musician separates octaves by a factor of two;
- he creates a 5th using a ratio of 3/2;
- two notes next to each other on the keyboard separate by the twelfth root of two.
So, is there scientific evidence of musicians being good at IT?
Not enough to withstand scientific scrutiny. But we do know that mathematicians succeed in a number of computer-related professions: computer programmers, software engineers, and computer systems analysts are just a few. IT professionals need analytical skills to develop responses to network issues and to create network functions that solve business needs. They plan, coordinate, and direct activities related to information technology. They make important decisions regarding buying and installation of hardware, software -- and the maintenance for both -- all of which require the analytical skills derived from a mathematically structured mind. And we also know that musicians have a mathematical turn of mind.
Another interesting connection between mathematics and music is the world of computer created music. For example, composer-scientist and former professor of music at the University of California, Santa Cruz, David Cope created what he called "Experiments in Musical Intelligence" in 1981.
Mr. Cope began as a traditional musician and then moved into work teaching computers how to create classical music. He developed a program that analyzes a particular composer's work and then creates a new musical composition in the style of that composer through algorithms.
Arguably, a musician who can program computers to write classical music should find IT tasks a snap. Of course, not all musicians have this kind of mathematical skill and some mathematicians are tone-deaf. Yet, it's hard not to draw conclusions from anecdotal evidence about the nexus between the two talents -- and thank the stars that the multi-talented few find ways to exercise both skills while creating things that amaze us.