The new Understanding Music group first met in February. We had a two-pronged plan. The first was to watch a series of twelve lectures entitled “How Music and Mathematics Relate” which we had bought on DVD from “The Great Courses”. We are now halfway through the course, which is given by a professor of mathematics who is also a violinist and who illustrates his lectures by playing his violin. We have found a lot of it quite difficult to understand. Nevertheless, we have gleaned a smattering of understanding of why musical instruments sound different from each other; how musical scales are constructed; how pianos are tuned and how composers use rhythm.
The second part of our plan is to follow the history of the development of classical music. We are listening to an audio book, which has taken us so far from about 800 AD to 1600 AD, from Gregorian plainchant through troubadour songs to Italian, French and English madrigals. We make extensive use of YouTube, which has myriads of examples of all the music we want to listen to. Some of our favourite composers so far are Hildegard of Bingen; William of Aquitaine; Giovanni Palestrina and Thomas Tallis.