Book Reviews

Harmonograph : A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music by Anthony Ashton

HarmonographReview: Harmonograph:

A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music

By Anthony Ashton

All Ages.

(Children 12 and up will grasp more concepts…but fascinating drawings will capture younger minds.)

A few years ago, my daughter gifted this book to my husband, who is an astrophysicist as well as a fabulous jazz bassist. I immediately grabbed this little gem of a book from him and put it on my bookshelf. For you see, as a physicist, he understands all of this already.  I had several years of music theory in college, yet I still need a refresher from time to time on the math behind the magic of music.

The book is based on a Victorian invention called the harmonograph, attributed to a gentleman named Professor Blackburn. The harmonograph was produced in the late 1800s. It produced drawings of patterns found in music. Through drawings produced by Ashton’s homemade harmonograph,  Ashton answers questions such as ” Why did Pythagoras pause outside a Blacksmith’s workshop?” “How are musical scales constructed?”

The drawings produced by Ashton’s harmonograph are absolutely stunning.

The book appeals to all artists and math aficionados alike.

Ashton also includes instructions on how to build your own harmonograph, warning readers that ” If you too are tempted to follow this path, beware!  It is both fascinating and time consuming.”

I’m thinking this would be a great alternative to “screen time” for us all!

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