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The Mandolin and Computability Theory

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Mar 15, 2021 - 2:04:21 PM
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52 posts since 3/15/2021

A subject that has always fascinated me is how the mandolin provides insight into ideas related to mathematics, computer science, biology, etc. Over the years I've met other mandolin players who professed that they understood there was some kind of overlap, but the conversation kind of drifts off after a bit without much elaboration.

For example, I find there is such a high degree of symmetry available to the instrument (more so than any other I can think of) that these patterns happen all over, and at higher speed, it's like watching a simulation of Conway's Game of Life. Even the basic mechanics of playing mandolin could be summarized as "sequence, iteration, and selection."

I don't know. Maybe it's just how my brain works, but I'm curious if anyone has observed something similar.

Mar 15, 2021 - 3:26:43 PM

52 posts since 3/15/2021

Ha I understand! I spent a long time trying to find some theory that explained this thing but ultimately realized it's the music that matters in the end :)

Mar 16, 2021 - 7:20:07 AM
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168 posts since 9/20/2012

I like the symmetry of a mandolin. Patterns are the same starting on any string. I contrast this with trying to learn melodies and leads on guitar. That B-string makes it so that you have to learn different scale patterns depending on which string you start on.

My favorite things about mandolin are 1) people are happy to see you when you show up at a jam that has 10 guitars and 3 banjos; 2) really easy to carry around. Oh yeah, the sound is nice too.

Mar 16, 2021 - 7:32:30 AM

52 posts since 3/15/2021

I think the ratio of guitar players at a jam to all other instruments is factorial, especially in Nashville lol.

Mar 16, 2021 - 11:40:12 AM

TSSN

USA

1015 posts since 1/3/2011

I agree with Yooper, I just love the sound.

At work, I beat the Navier-Stokes Equations into submission. When I go home, I just like to play my mandolin. I get the mathematical underpinnings of music, but I guess my brain tends to keep them separate.

Mar 16, 2021 - 12:06:38 PM

52 posts since 3/15/2021

I guess I just got bored of hearing the same licks over and over again and one day thought, "What would a Hilbert Curve sound like?" and it just opened up a whole new field of ideas and exploration. It's not about the math, but creating new approaches to playing.

Mar 16, 2021 - 4:08:38 PM

TSSN

USA

1015 posts since 1/3/2011

A bit off topic, but I would recommend exploring the data sonifications of Andrea Polli at New Mexico University.

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