15th October is World Maths Day!
This is how most of us feel during a maths test.
But maths isn’t all scary equations and divisions. Music and mathematics, for instance, have been intertwined all the way back to the Ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras in the 6th century BCE. Pythagoras was inspired to study music by hearing a blacksmith’s hammer hitting an anvil and noticing that it made different notes depending on where it hit. He figured out that music was built on mathematical ratios and began the study of harmony. Since his time, many musicians have also studied mathematics – in many ways it’s the foundation of all the music we hear today. You can even do a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Music at the University of Edinburgh.
Usually the mathematical parts of music aren’t picked up by an untrained ear, but sometimes musicians make it more obvious. For example, Johnny Buckland from Coldplay has a degree in Mathematics and Coldplay songs frequently feature math themes, like Twisted Logic, Square One, Proof, Major Minus and 42.
Modern classical composer, Philip Glass, wrote an entire opera based on math: Einstein on the Beach. Whole sections of the opera are based on numbers and counting. And American avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson frequently uses math themes in her work, such as the song “Let X=X“ on her album Big Science.
Musicians who are also mathematicians include:
- Brian May (Queen) – PhD in Astrophysics and degrees in mathematics, Imperial College London
- Dan Snaith (Caribou) – PhD Mathematics, Imperial College London
- Art Garfunkel (Simon & Garfunkel) – Masters in Mathematics, Columbia University
- Johnny Buckland (Coldplay) – degree in Mathematics, University College London.
- Gregg Turner (Angry Samoans) – Mathematics, Claremont Graduate University (currently teaches at New Mexico Highlands University)
- Ethan Port (Savage Republic) – Mathematics, University of Southern California
- Phil Alvin (The Blasters) – Mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles