Tuesday, November 06, 2012

free jazz maths lecture!

Veg Box Cafe, Canterbury

Tom Jackson — clarinet
Sam Bailey — piano (prepared with Blu-Tack)
Matt Wright — laptop, electronics me — equations, chalkdust, armwaving

Having done a bit of "freestyle performance maths lecturing" at festivals in recent summers (most notably at Smugglers Festival this summer and the last), it had occured to me that there might be some way of combining this with music. But this particular event wasn't something I instigated. Sam was planning a "happening" as part of the Free Range series, using various spaces in and around the cafe, with poets, performers, musicians, projections, even a samurai(!) But most of that fell through, and we were left with me and the band...I'd been asked to come and do some maths lecturing, so that free improvisers could respond to the equations on the blackboard.

I opted for Euler's Formula, often cited as the most beautiful or remarkable in mathematics:

e + 1 = 0

It was one of the strangest, most wonderful things I've ever done (despite some technical issues involving the chalk not sticking to the board!). The musicians were following the inflections in my voice, and apparently I was similarly following them. My alter-ego, Prof. Raphael Appleblossom, took over pretty quickly, and I got rather animated...

The whole thing, about 45 minutes, got recorded.

Someone also passed a videocamera around, the idea being the audience could film from a variety of angles. That didn't work out so well, but Sam has edited a three-minute clip together.

I still haven't brought myself to watch this yet (my own memories are good enough, don't really want to alter them, and watching oneself can be rather uncomfortable...) But someone I've never seen before approached me at the recent Boot Lagoon/Le Duc/Syd Arthur gig to enthuse about the video. He's a maths teacher who doesn't know Sam, hasn't been up to any of the Free Range events...I have no idea how he found it. Owen from Zoo For You and Arlet got in touch recently to mention having seen this too, so it's obviously circulating — Owen's recently moved to Manchester which is a bit of a loss for us down here (but good for him), has started an excellent new music blog called The Pocket Trumpet.

There may be more of this free jazz mathematics to come — we seem to have found a niche. Watch this space!


Blogger Joseph Earl-Ridley said...

It was great to meet you last night Matthew albeit briefly, I had not expected to see you again following the delightful evening of freestyle jazz maths.

Watching and listening again it was just as good as I remember... Im pleased to see some of my footage made it into the final cut!

I found your presentation last night and Prof. Appleblossoms lecture very interesting and am looking forward to reading and listening to some of the others things you have posted online.

3:30 PM  

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