those who know about music: it is well known and accepted that beethoven couldn't multiply and couldn't dance. yet he wrote many pieces with complicated rhythms like 13/12 in the Appassionata. and many other unusual rhythmic pieces - how could this be? wouldn't he have had to notate such pieces? and wouldn't that require a very high degree of mathematics?

Laurel Kenner responds:

No, musical rhythm is not like, say, linear algebra. It’s even different from multiplication. Beethoven was a master of syncopation. He probably didn’t get dancing lessons. 

Christopher Tucker comments:

A lot of mathematics can be done without the use of numbers and their operators.  A lot of it can be done visually without ever mentioning numbers and I think it is safe to assume that the same applies for auditory - tempos, rhythms, scales, finding notes that are all in the same key without having to think about it in a way that is normally associated with doing math. 

Peter Krupp adds:

We all have an innate sense of rhythm, to a higher or lesser degree, which can be developed. I was fortunate to have studied for a few years with a professional pianist who was a student of Artur Schnabel, one of the great Beethoven pianists of the 20th century. She played and demonstrated many of the Beethoven sonatas and had me listen to many of Schnabel's recorded performances. Not once did she count out the rhythms or do any sort of mathematical analysis. She demanded "feeling & sensing" the rhythm. I never developed the pianistic skill that she had. I played for my own pleasure. My first love was science and mathematics but prior to her tutelage I lacked awareness of music as a sensory-based art. My experience with her completely changed that outlook.

An historical note:

Statistics of Mental Imagery
Francis Galton (1880)
First published in Mind, 5, 301-318.

Laurence Glazier writes:

The inspiration comes ready made. The composer has to write it out. A steady rhythm is a social construct. The blackbird and nightingale know nothing of it.

I am just now orchestrating Andaluza by Falla, and have been removing a beat from some of the bars which sounds more natural to me.

Had Beethoven actually used the time signatures which came, maybe, to his mind, there would have been resistance from the players. He had enough trouble anyway getting people to play well.

A corollary - the not dancing is helpful, as that would have predisposed the mind to a steady rhythm. However you can be sure of his math prowess.

Nils Poertner writes:

the use of the trampoline (the mini-rebounder) can be a very useful tool on the aspect of re-learning rhythm.

it is probably the case the vast majority of the population these days has got some aspect of blockage or a lack of sense of rhythm - and also learning disabilities - except they don't perceive it that way.

here is good old Ray Gottlieb (former eye doctor from Rochester, New York- who inspired me with his work):

Attention and Memory: A Stress-Point Learning Approach

James Lackey adds:

Army marching singing cadence they are very good at every task as the US Army tells you what to do, how to do it and even explains why.

Anyhow it was 1% that CAN'T dance. It's a heck of a lot lower than all think.


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