Go and Music

Go is similar to music in more ways than you may think. Both have almost unlimited creative potential, and serve as a great form of expression. What can we learn from music that can be applied to Go (and vice-versa)? Let’s look at some of the similarities.

First, there are the mental aspects. There is evidence to suggest that both playing Go and playing a musical instrument reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (along with activities such as reading and regular social interaction). Also, Go and music have been found to stimulate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain simultaneously.

There is also something to be said about memory. Trained musicians have been shown to retain more information over a longer period of time, and have increased activation of the cerebral cortex (part of the brain which is closely connected to memory). This could be compared to advanced Go players who can remember long joseki patterns or even entire games. Some people have called Go and chess “cerebral sports.”

Any experienced Go player will tell you that there is some kind of communication over the board. The way you play a game is a form of expression, just like music. Some would even argue that Go is a language, just as some would argue that music (musical notation, more specifically) is a language.

Now we have seen some of the similarities between Go and music. What can we learn from them? When you play a Go game, you are like a musician. Just as there are many musical styles, there are many styles of Go games. There are peaceful, calm periods in the game, and there are violent, “loud” moments.┬áThere is tension and harmony, rhythm and flow. With this in mind, please make your games unique, and create something beautiful!

Finally, as an example of what this article is about, please enjoy this excellent composition by Haskell Small; a piano arrangement about a game of Go:

Part 1:

Part 2:

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