Last weekend I held a dinner party for some people who have been especially helpful to me following the death of my husband, Carl Crosier. It’s “what Carl would do,” and I remember that he was sometimes challenged to get all the food ready at the right time. For really elaborate dinners, he would create a spreadsheet, and copy down all the cooking times, oven temperatures, and prep times needed. Then he would know what time to start the turkey, the vegetables, etc.
It was the same procedure he would use to conduct rehearsals for big performances. I was telling my guests that for works like Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, he actually made a spreadsheet for every choral rehearsal and every orchestral rehearsal. In the case of the latter, he also entered which instruments were used in each of the movements. That way, he could rehearse all the pieces in which the trumpets played, then they could be dismissed. The same was done with the oboes, and other instruments who did not play in all of the pieces. His big bugaboo was not to waste anyone’s time!
I was relaying this to my dinner guests, and one of them, The Rev. Diane Martinson, marveled at Carl’s ability to put math and music together. I think most people thought of him as a musician, but fewer knew that he was also a whiz at numbers, and was the chief financial officer and business manager of St. Andrew’s Priory School.
So it was quite a coincidence that when Diane went home after dinner, she read about the composer of the hymn tune, “Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning,” in her evening devotions:
Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning, ELW 303
Brightest and best of the stars of the morning,
dawn on our darkness and lend us your aid.
Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant redeemer is laid.
This grand, soaring tune was composed by James Procktor Harding (1850-1922) who worked for many years in the English Civil Service as a clerk in the internal revenue department. It seems unlikely that such an occupation would inspire lofty music, but perhaps his role was Choirmaster and Organist of St. Andrew’s Church, Islington, England, inspired him.
Then I saw that the devotional Diane sent me was from Luther Seminary! What a coincidence — that is one of the organizations which is sponsoring the trip to Germany which I signed up for!
Diane wrote: This evening’s devotional says that James Harding was a clerk in the Internal Revenue Department of the English Civil Service as well as Choirmaster and Organist at St. Andrew’s in Islington, England. It made me think of Carl! — an accountant and Choirmaster/Organist who was inspired to make beautiful music. They always say math and music go together! And this on the night when I had dinner with you. 🙂
There is even a Wikipedia entry for the connection between math and music. “Music theorists sometimes use mathematics to understand music, and although music has no axiomatic foundation in modern mathematics, mathematics is “the basis of sound” and sound itself “in its musical aspects… exhibits a remarkable array of number properties”, simply because nature itself “is amazingly mathematical”.
While it is true that musicians have to know fractions really well (“how else would we know how to play quarter, eighth, sixteenth and thirty-second notes?”), other musicians (like me), are terrible at math!