The Code

The Code

Looking for something to put me to sleep, I came across a mathematical documentary on Netflix entitled The Code. It is a BBC documentary produced in 2011 and I was pretty sure this would be the trick for my insomnia. However, once I figured out that this wasn’t one of those creepy end-of-the-world kinds of films, it was actually quite interesting.

Specifically, what grabbed my attention was when presenter Marcus du Sautoy started talking about proportions. It sounded a lot like George Walker and Jim Tolpin’s comments in By Hand & EyeThe difference was the imagery. In The Code, the host is is walking through a massive cathedral and illustrating the proportions and rations found in the architecture and explaining how those same ratios are found in music. He ends the scene with the statement “a symphony set in stone.”

Walker and Tolpin explain ratios and proportions in the same way; as a symphony that we are creating through furniture (see pg. 55). Sautoy uses a device to measure tonal frequency to visually explain why proportions fit so well. The visual explanation really helped me to conceptualize why proportions are so fundamental to design.

The Code is essentially about the mathematics behind the world around us. In the second episode Sautoy explores geometric shapes and even goes so far as to use geometry to explain the mathematics behind a Jackson Pollock painting. Ironically, I have always found Pollock’s paintings to be mostly left to chance but at the same time there was something about them that changed the way the world defined art. Sautoy explains that the reason behind this is essentially proportions.

If you are a woodworker, and especially if you have been working through By Hand and Eye or By Hound and Eye, I think you would find this documentary interesting. You can check out some clips here.

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