Hoijer '15 Studies Correlations Between Mathematics and Music
July 29, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Illinois Wesleyan University student Natalie Hoijer ’15 (Arlington
Heights, Ill.) is combining her academic majors to investigate the relationships between
mathematical symmetries and classical music.
“The connection between math and music has always fascinated me and by studying both of them, I see how they both seem to
rely on each other,” said Hoijer, who is double majoring in both fields. “They both
parallel in many ways, such as in the mathematics of the sound produced by instruments,
and tuning, probability and group theory.”
As an Eckley Summer Scholar and Artist, Hoijer is researching mathematical symmetries such as the Golden Mean, the Fibonacci
Series and palindromes, and how they apply to the composition of concert music. Under
the mentorship of School of Music Director Mario Pelusi, she is exploring how these
techniques affect the styles and structures of a variety of musical compositions and
how these works compare to compositions that do not use mathematical symmetries.
As part of her project, Hoijer is also teaching a class titled “Unleashing Music’s
Hidden Blueprint” at the Illinois Chamber Music Festival held through Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Music. She incorporates her research and
findings into her lesson plans, and creates hands-on activities to help students understand
the theories and foundations on which compositions are based.
“I love sharing my enthusiasm for math and music with students and seeing them enjoy
the content as much as I do,” said Hoijer. “The chance to be in front of a classroom
of students, create my own lesson plans and share my discoveries, as well as help
students reach discoveries of their own is an exciting experience.”
After receiving feedback from surveys, projects and activities that she has completed
with her class, Hoijer said she has been able to measure quantitatively the aesthetic
quality of contrastingly structured compositions. She hopes to discover which compositional
tool is most effective in enhancing the overall structure of a work of music, information
she plans on presenting or publishing through a research paper.
The Eckley Summer Scholars and Artists endowment supports summer research and creative
activity for several students each year, enabling them to stay on campus over the
summer under the direction of faculty mentors. The program was established as one
aspect of a major gift to the University by President Emeritus Robert S. Eckley, his
wife Nell and the Eckley Family Foundation, before he passed away in 2012.
“It has been wonderful to have unencumbered time devoted to dissecting my research
and also invigorating to make these discoveries,” said Hoijer. “To transform a subjective
field, such as music into an objective understanding with colors, shapes or proportions,
has been a rich and gratifying experience.”