The math in music

Updated: Oct 21, 2019, 07:35 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi | Mumbai

A 23-year-old musician dropped out of IIT to pursue his passion full time. Now, he is taking a masterclass on the mathematical perspective to music

Indroneil Kanungo
Indroneil Kanungo

You have surely heard about the Greek philosopher Pythagoras. But did you know that he devised the world's first tuning system called Pythagorean tuning, too? We learn this from 23-year-old musician Indroneil Kanungo, a student at the True School of Music, where he will be conducting a masterclass this Thursday. Titled Where Art Meets Mathematics, the interactive discussion will shed light on the history and mathematical foundations behind music theory, alternative tuning systems and micro-tonal music.

"A lot of patterns that musicians rely on to write and analyse music, if understood fundamentally, aren't just very interesting, but extremely practical, too. It's by understanding these patterns that musicians like Beethoven composed a good portion of their repertoire in spite of a major hearing loss," Kanungo explains, adding that it is no coincidence that the person to have designed the first tuning system was also a mathematician.

Interestingly though, it's also not a coincidence that Kanungo is helming this session, considering that he went to the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, and thus has a natural inclination towards subjects like mathematics and physics. That was a particularly difficult time for the young artiste, a self-taught classical pianist who, back then, had already been playing for eight years. "I was going through severe clinical depression during my early years in college and had a history with insomnia. As a result, I missed a lot of classes and by the time I was in my final year, I had 13 failed courses out of 55. It would have taken me at least another year to catch up, and wasting my twenties in agony and depression wasn't exactly my idea of adolescence. So, I decided to take the leap and dropped out of engineering," he recalls.

This masterclass was a result of happenstance. At a music theory class, Kanungo asked his teacher a question, which led to a discussion and ended up in the teacher suggesting he take this class. He concludes, "I think the audience should gain a strong understanding of music theory since I'll be discussing everything right from the principles. An analogy I like to think of is that proficiency in music is like scaling a mountain. In a lot of ways, the mountain we climb has been chosen for us by conditioning us to listen to a particular kind of music. My lecture is also an attempt to make people realise that there's a bunch of other mountains out there, even if you can't see them."

On October 24, 7 pm to 9 pm
At The True School of Music, 107, Sun Mill Compound, opposite Hanuman Temple, Lower Parel.
Call 66243200 LOG ON

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