Interview with Chelsea Majuri, a Graphic Designer at GDLOFT
That being said, I embarked on my research of J.S. Bach with an open mind; my former knowledge stems only from piano lessons and a few art and music appreciation courses. I looked into his life story, career, and marriages, traveling down rabbit trails of the corresponding period in visual art history as well.
However, all of this fell to the background when reading about the genius, tight-knit construction of Bach’s composition work. (I have always been a bit of a numbers and geometry geek, so I delved into this search of mathematics willingly.) With his cantatas playing through my headphones, I entered the endless world of scholars and students uncovering real application of mathematical theory in composition after composition.
Q: What did you uncover about Bach the Mathematician in the course of your research?
I will admit that much of my reading was over my head, but the Fibonacci Sequence came to my attention multiple times. It became clear to me that Bach seems to compose measure-numbers that correspond with values in various numerical sequences in which to create musical highs and lows, with musical and rhythmic peaks often occurring in measures corresponding to number from these theories. When I read that BWV 78 (a Cantata that will be performed in the premiere concert of 1734/35: Seasons in the Life of J.S. Bach - Fall Trinity Season) is one of the compositions that is used to support the theory of his employment of the Fibonacci Sequence, with one of the most pivotal mural moments occurring in measure 89, I knew we were onto something for the project.
A moment on (my amateur knowledge of) the Fibonacci Sequence: the sequence is made up of a series of numbers in which every third number is the sum of the two that came before it. Additionally, as the sequence progresses, the ratio of each sequential pair gets closer and closer to the number Phi (1.61803…). Phi has historic and biological significance and has often been called names like the “Divine Proportion” or “Golden Ratio”.
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, etc.
Designing with the Fibonacci Sequence in mind is by no means a new thought. Jan Tschichold, the 20th Century typographic theorist, set forth the idea of a “perfect book”, deriving from Fibonacci Sequence the ratio of page height to page width and replicating the ratio in smaller sections of the page. And choosing type sizes from the Fibonacci Sequence is a common practice in modern web design.
We at GDLOFT took it a step further, we made almost every numeric decision with these numbers in mind:
- The ratio of the book's height to width is a number approaching Phi.
- Text sizes of 8, 13, 21, and 34 can be seen all throughout the piece.
- We devised a color wheel with 24 values from which we chose to use the values 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and 21.
- The gradients you’ll see throughout utilize the color immediately next to one another in the sequence, ensuring that the relationship or “ratio” between each would be as close to Phi as possible.
- The geometric pattern on the inside cover pages display portions of the grid on which we laid out each page. You’ll see each vertical rectangle that emerges is a proportionally scaled replica of the rectangular page itself.
Q: What can our audience learn from Bach as a mathematician, and how can it apply to our lives?
If I could have one wish for the audience members to take with them from the performances and the program booklet that GDLOFT designed, I would love for each to learn from Bach and look for a simple pattern in the world around us. Could the ratio of the number of brick homes to tan homes on your block be close to the number Phi? Or what about the ratio of the number of choruses to verses in a song on the radio? Or maybe one can simply employ the Fibonacci Sequence in choosing the number of creams and sugars in his coffee tomorrow morning.
Chelsea Majuri has been designing with GDLOFT for three years. She received her BA in Graphic Design from Rutgers University-Camden. Chelsea enjoys mentoring within the field and has taught three semesters of high school graphic design courses at The University of the Arts' Pre-College Saturday School and Summer Institute. A South Jersey native, she currently lives in Port Richmond, Philadelphia with her husband and cat.
Interviewed by Inna Lobanova-Heasley
"1734-1735: A Season in the Life of J.S. Bach"
has been supported by
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.