Rhythm by numbers revealed


WHEN A pianist, professor and graphic artist team up to teach maths, the results are rhythmic.

Maths professor Paco Gómez and pianist Giovanna Farigu performed a maths rhythms show with Guxti Céspedes yesterday for Dublin school children. The show highlighted the similarities and connections between division and rhythm.

“There are lots of studies combining different kinds of maths and music,” said Farigu.

Dr Gómez has studied computational music theory since 2003 and this is the second year the team is demonstrating these connections for maths week.

In talking about maths and rhythm, the group warns, there will be serious moments. But cartoons, shadow play and squirt guns keep primary and secondary school children engaged through the equations.

“You cannot take maths too seriously, but not too light-hearted either,” said Farigu. “It’s very accessible . . . maybe something with music could help.”

So cowbells and rhythm entice pupils as they learn how division and divisors bridge music and maths.

Rhythm is all about evenly spacing out sounds, or the evenness principle. Farigu and Dr Gómez said this is the simplest kind of division – distributing notes among a steady pulse as evenly as possible.

Rhythm is simple division. For example, if you have 12 beats to a line of music and you want to play four notes, you divide 12 by four to decide where to place the notes in the song. Every three beats, you play a note.

Music, it might seem, is a bit more complicated. But the team uses Gamamla, African harvest music from Ghana, to show division and rhythm in complex musical creations. “When you talk about rhythm, you talk about Africa,” Farigu said.

Children end the display at the Froebel College of Education, Dublin, by creating these rhythms with simple claps and pauses.

The team will be performing at various venues nationwide all week.