Memories of a musician

I had a thought after watching this video*:

People who knew me in high school (perhaps even later) think of me much more as a musician than they ever considered me a mathematician.**  To me they’re the same.  Playing with pattern and beauty; structure and form; theme and variation.  Seeing what happens when you mess around around and see what you like and figure out what works – exploring what’s possible given a few restrictions: a set of givens, a chromatic scale, whole numbers, whole steps, some paper, a piano, or a string quartet.

The thoughts that led me to write songs and analyze Ben Folds and the Beatles and all of that music stuff, was mathematical thinking.  It’s the same I do now with everything.  I analyze, and I play – carefully and for pleasure.

- – -

Jon Hamm and I went to the same school, and my dad is Wayne Salomon, the theater teacher he mentions in the video.  I practically grew up in that theater, spending my Saturdays watching him teach.  My dad is that side of me.
** You can hear some of my music here.
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6 responses to “Memories of a musician

  1. How cool is that. Definitely fewer than 6 degrees of separation between John Hamm and our Paul here. Good memories, for sure, thanks for sharing. How do you explain my deep love for math and shallow competence in music then? :)

  2. I’m really glad to read this. As a musician/percussive dancer it’s been a tough road to convince myself and others that what I do is mathematical, but I’ve been pretty sure of it for a while now. That is why I so appreciate your help and support over the last few months — now I know I’m not crazy, lol! The stuff I’m doing with the paper weaving now is exactly what I do when I create new dances.

    • Oh I have no doubt at all that you are mathematician through and through, Malke (in addition to all manner of other things). In reading your blog and talking to you, I can see you’re as mathematical as anyone I know. You do more math in your free time than many degreed mathematicians I know.

  3. Greetings from a voice from your musical past. Have you read the writings of jazz polyglot Vijay Iyer? Start here: http://www.vijay-iyer.com/images/_archivedArticles/_2009/Strength%20in%20numbers.pdf and then work your way up to his PhD dissertation: http://archive.cnmat.berkeley.edu/People/Vijay/%20THESIS.html

    • Eric, you’re more than a voice from my musical past. You’re immense polyphony! I owe so much to you, dude.

      I’ll probably never get to reading that dissertation, but I’ll definitely look through “How Fibonacci taught us to swing.” Super cool. And I’ll share it with my mathematical art classes. Thanks!

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