Maths by Music

Music and poetry can be playful, useful tools for memorizing information. With these three songs, I had fun applying Mathematics to music.

With schools starting a new year (this was recorded in September), the timing for this musical experiment was ideal. The reason I started creating them though was because I’ve been listening to Amaranth by Nightwish a lot. It’s one of my favourite songs at the moment, with a incredible chorus that both rocks and hits all the right harmonies. When the chorus starts, I started playing with the lyrics. Rather than ‘Caress the one’, I thought, ‘Carry the one’ would be  a brilliant start to a mathematical parody of the song, or in other words, an excellent mathematics ear-worm.  In the final version, it became ‘Carry the number’, to apply to other sums, but the education train had begun!

The subject I tackled for the next song was algebra. I found an education website that referred to ‘X’ being an unknown quantity. When I saw that to get X, you needed to balance the entire equation, I summarized this in my head. That’s when ‘Into the Unknown’ from Frozen 2 crept in. It’s a perfect quick way to summarize this process.

Finally, when looking for another mathematical area to write about, my wife suggested Pythagoras’ Theorem. The word that gave me my song choice was ‘hypotenuse’. It’s an odd, barely-used word, and it’s closest sounding neighbour is hippopotamus. The classic comic song by Flanders and Swann was a joy to work with!

The music the songs are based on are: Into the Unknown by Idina Menzel and AURORA, Amaranth by Nightwish, and The Hippopotamus Song by Flanders and Swann.

Tribute to Dad

Music is a wonderful memory tool for transporting the listener back in time, and if you layer that with personal lyrics then you can have a very meaningful result. For my Dad’s funeral I created a musical tribute which combined stories from his life with music that was either a favourite of his, or appropriate for the story. 

The first excerpt (Side A) is a story that typifies Dad’s behavior. Rather than join the family on a much faster journey from UK to Berlin Germany, he took a ferry across the English channel so that he could drive while listening to his audio books. For this custom song, I used Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Pirate King’ from Pirates of Penzance, as he was a big fan of their operettas. 

The second excerpt (Side B) was a favouite pastime of his. He had stayed in touch with many of his colleagues at Culham Laboratory and travelled to Oxfordshire every Friday to play tennis, table tennis and golf. He could treat himself to food that he usually wouldn’t touch, such as chips. For this song, the lyrics worked really well with the ‘Happy Days’ theme tune.