When you need mathematical courage in the 7th and 3rd of Kim Hee-kyung Bach’s art life

‘The Art of 7 and 3’ includes the lives of artists who left beautiful music and outstanding paintings. 7 and 3 is Doremi Fasolashi’s 7th degree, and the ‘three basic colors of light’ which are red, green and blue. All the work that moves and moves people’s hearts is born from these seven tones and three primary colors. It is an art of thinking how to combine them, and develop the results.

Season 1, which was previously serialized, presented the lives and philosophies of artists, season 2, under the subtitle ‘Cinematic Art’, tells stories about various arts such as classical music, art and dance in the film.


Prelude No. 1 from Small Unaccompanied Cello, performed by cellist Opheli Gaillard. /Aparte Music Channel

A middle-aged man scribbles down mathematical formulas in a notebook. I am amazed at how easy it is to solve complex and difficult math problems. He is Lee Hak-seong (Choi Min-sik), a genius mathematician who defected from North Korea. Hak-seong meets Han Ji-woo (Kim Dong-hwi), a high school student who has become a ‘desperate person (a person who has given up on mathematics)’ and becomes a teacher who teaches mathematics .

This is the content of ‘The Mathematician in Wonderland’, directed by Park Dong-hoon, which was released in March. Mathematics was well received for its fun and comfortable drawing while dealing with a rather difficult subject. There is a device that lubricates the film. This is the music I listen to whenever Hakseong solves math problems and goes to bed.

This piece is the prelude No. 1 of ‘Suite for Cello without Accompaniment’ by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 ~ 1750), a musician from the Baroque period. This is Bach’s most popular song. Even if the film has a difficult mathematical formula, it feels much smoother and more intimate when the song flows together.

The film ‘Mathematicians in Wonderland’.

But why did the film choose Bach’s music over other musicians? Perhaps it is because there is no other musician who can relate to mathematics as well as Bach. Bach has many similarities with the genius mathematician, Hakseong.

Listening to Bach’s music doesn’t seem to have anything to do with math. All his representative songs such as ‘Aria on the G String’ and ‘Goldberg Variations’, including unaccompanied cello songs are all monotones. However, it is not packed and decorated with splendor, so it feels deeper and more refined. No matter how much I listen, I never tire of it.

For this reason many musicians want to be like him to this day. In the movie, there is a scene where Ji-woo asks Hak-seong why he likes Bach. Scholar responds this way: “Small is the beginning and end of music.”

Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach has such a wonderful mathematical side. In the film, Hakseong says, “Even if the human race is destroyed, all music can be restored with Bach sheet music.” This story is not artificially created by the film. Indeed, “Even if all the music of the world disappears, there is Bach’s music There is a saying, “It can only be restored if you have it.”

is a collection of works called ‘Hen Testament y Piano’. Until Bach published this book, musicians followed the ‘pure rule’. Purity refers to a tuning method where the length of the string is adjusted by two thirds to produce a note one octave higher than the original pitch.

However, if you play according to this purity rate, an error will occur. When I change the key, such as changing from C major to D major, there is a sudden inconsistency.

Bach paid attention to the ‘average rate’ as a way of correcting this. Temperament refers to dividing an octave into exactly 12 parts and playing the notes in equal proportions. If you combine temperament, you can perform beautiful performances without dissonance even when transposing.


Bach played by pianist Andris Schiff Prelude and Fugue #1 from Volume 1 / Naxos Music YouTube Channel

Bach collected everything about this temperament and published a workbook, which influenced many musicians. Mozart is said to have re-studied the basics of composition after being exposed to a collection of works. Chopin practiced enough to learn and play all 48 songs in the workbook.

Voyager, the first satellite launched by the United States in 1977, contained a total of 27 songs representing the music of Earth. Three of them are works by Bach, and one is This is ‘Prelude and Fugue in C major’ from Volume 2. The other two pieces are ‘Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 1st Movement’ and ‘Accompanied Violin Partita No. 3’.

Like the scholar in the film, Bach was a great teacher. At the age of 44, when he was very busy and famous, he dared to take the position of director of a group called ‘Collegium Mujicum’. This was a college music group. Bach had a passion for education, and brought university musicians to the stage in every service.

His On the cover, this is written. “I hope young musicians who want to learn can use it and benefit from it.” Volume 1 of this collection was written in 1721 and volume 2 was written in 1741. It is surprising that the temperament has been researched and compiled for over 20 years for young musicians.


Bach’s ‘Aria on the G’ performed by the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra./ Norwegian Chamber Orchestra

Perhaps the reason Bach’s music is simple and concise is because he constantly faced and solved complex and difficult music formulas like mathematics, even after taking a long time. In the movie, Hak-seong tells Ji-woo how to be good at math.

The method is ‘mathematical courage’. Academia defines mathematical courage like this: “Hey, this is a really hard problem. I’ll try to solve it again tomorrow. “Relaxed thinking, that’s mathematical courage.”

Looking back, it seems that when I was at school, I didn’t have the least time to spare in front of maths problems. If things don’t go well, I immediately get discouraged, and I put the problem completely out of my mind. It seems to be the same even now, as an adult and standing before the more and more complex problem of life. Easily frustrated and often avoided. Aren’t you like that too?

The film 'Mathematicians in Wonderland'.
The film ‘Mathematicians in Wonderland’.

Nevertheless, we come to realize this by looking at the film and Bach’s life together. That life also requires mathematical courage. It means taking a step back and thinking about it, and the perseverance to try again tomorrow. Unfortunately, I gave up maths, but life can never be like that. Why not start today, you too, having the mathematical courage and trying to solve your life more carefully?

By Kim Hee-kyung, staff reporter hkkim@hankyung.com

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