Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Vi Hart’

09 JULY, 2013

Vi Hart Explains Stravinsky’s Atonal Compositions and Why We Hear Music the Way We Do

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What experimental composers have to do with copyright wrongs and the neuroscience of language.

The magnificent Vi Hart — mathemusician extraordinaire, who has previously stop-motion-doodled our way to understanding such mysteries as space-time, Möbius strips, Fibonacci numbers, and the science of sound, frequency, and pitch — is back with another gem, this time illuminating Stravinsky’s atonal composition for Edward Lear’s classic nonsense poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat.” Stravinsky actually borrowed the basis for his composition from the 12-tone technique Arnold Schoenberg invented, which Hart explains as well. Enjoy, and keep an eye open for Hart’s delightful sideways sleight against the brokenness of copyright law, one that would’ve actually left Stravinsky particularly miffed.

What’s interesting about 20th-century 12-tone composers is that they were actually trying to get away from the implied context and invisible meaning people were so used to. … The whole structure of the 12-tone row is designed to help break free of old musical habits. How are you supposed to hear the pure truth of the notes A-flat, F, D-flat, when the existing music has taught your brain to hear it as a Neapolitan chord in the cue of C? … But Stravinsky didn’t want children growing up to think music was supposed to sound a certain way — he knew that whatever language people speak to children is a language they grow up to speak and to think in.

And on the off chance you haven’t yet seen it, don’t miss Hart’s fantastic video on how to tame trolls and deal with negative comments — an essential piece of digital literacy that every single human should be shown before being given an internet-enabled device.

Open Culture

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26 FEBRUARY, 2013

How to Tame Trolls: Vi Hart on Dealing with Negative Comments

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“Your greatest creation is yourself. Like any great work of art, creating a great self means putting in hard work, every day, for years.”

Mathemusician Vi Hart has been a regular around here with her whimsical and mind-bending stop-motion explanations of scientific concepts. But it turns out she’s also an astute social psychologist and oracle of human nature: This hand-made disquisition on how to deal with negative comments and trolls should be a cornerstone of basic digital literacy. Like Bertrand Russell, she reminds us that to create is much braver and more difficult than to destroy; like Ezra Pound, she admonishes against taking criticism from people who have never created anything meaningful themselves; like Neil Gaiman, she points to the simple — though hardly easy — truth that the only dignified and worthwhile response to such hateful attacks is to make good art.

I have no power over you that you don’t give me, and you have no power over me that I don’t give you. … Your greatest creation is yourself. Like any great work of art, creating a great self means putting in hard work, every day, for years.

And if all that balanced, psychologically measured, self-aware response fails, there’s always F. Scott Fitzgerald’s approach.

Thanks, Juliette; image: Illustration by John Bauer for Walter Stenström’s “The Boy and the Trolls,” 1915 (public domain)

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11 FEBRUARY, 2013

Mathemusician Vi Hart Explains Space-Time with a Music Box and a Möbius Strip

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The fabric of the universe via backwards Bach.

If mathemusician Vi Hart — who for the past three years has been bringing whimsy to math with her mind-bending, playful, and illuminating stop-motion musical doodles — isn’t already your hero, she should be, and likely will be. (Cue in the GRAMMYs newly announced search for great music teachers.) In her latest gem, Hart uses music notation, a Möbius strip, and backwards Bach to explain space-time:

Music has two recognizable dimensions — one is time, and the other is pitch-space. … There [are] a few things to notice about written music: Firstly, that it is not music — you can’t listen to this. … It’s not music — it’s music notation, and you can only interpret it into the beautiful music it represents.

Also see Hart on the science of sound, frequency and pitch, and her blend of Victorian literature and higher mathematics to explain multiple dimensions.

For a decidedly less whimsical but enormously illuminating deeper dive, see these 7 essential books on time and watch Michio Kaku’s BBC documentary on the subject, then learn how to listen to music.

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