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'Secret structure' of music uncovered

200 years after Greek philosopher Pythogoras discovered the orderliness of music, researchers have uncovered its secret structure by devising a new way of analysing and categorising music they see enmeshed in its very fabric.

music Updated: Apr 18, 2008 14:52 IST

The connection between music and mathematics has always fascinated scholars. Now, 200 years after Greek philosopher Pythogoras discovered the orderliness of music, researchers have uncovered its secret structure.

A team of three music professors has devised a new way of analysing and categorising music that takes advantage of the deep, complex mathematics they see enmeshed in its very fabric, the 'Science' journal reported in its latest issue.

The trio -- Clifton Callender of Florida State University, Ian Quinn of Yale University and Dmitri Tymoczko of rinceton University -- has outlined a method, known as "geometrical music theory", that translates the language of musical theory into that of contemporary geometry.

In fact, the researchers took sequences of notes, like chords, rhythms and scales, and categorised them so they could be grouped into "families". They have found a way to assign mathematical structure to these families, so they can then be represented by points in complex geometrical spaces.

Different types of categorisation produce different geometrical spaces, and reflect the different ways in which musicians over the centuries have understood music. This achievement, they expect, will allow scientists to analyse and understand music in much deeper and more satisfying ways.