Music And Mathematics: Seemingly Strange Bedfellow

Experts through the years have acknowledged the relationship between music and mathematics. Each seems to increase one’s ease of understanding for the other.

Central Methodist University will present two days of combining the concepts in a series of presentations on Sunday and Monday, April 2 – 3.

The vocal musician, soprano Nathalie Colas, will be presenting a master class to vocal students of CMU’s Swinney Conservatory of Music on Sunday, April 2, from 1 -3 p.m. in the Kountz Recital Hall. Students will be accompanied by collaborative pianist Mary Jane Nance.

Following the master classes, Colas will give an open recital on Sunday night at 7 p.m., also in the Recital Hall. She will be accompanied by Dr. Eugenia Cheng, collaborative pianist and mathematician.

On Monday, April 3, at 8 a.m. Dr. Cheng will give a presentation, in conjunction with a continental breakfast in the Inman Student Community Center, on mathematics and how to make the oft-dreaded subject palatable to the masses, especially the “math phobes” of the world.

All of the events are free and open to the public.

Colas is a versatile and curious musician, artist, producer, and music advocate. She was born in Strasbourg, France and raised in Alsatian vineyards. She graduated from DePaul University School of Music, holds an M.A. in classical singing and baroque chamber music from the Brussels Royal Flemish Conservatory, and has a professional degree in opera from the Swiss Opera Studio.

She has sung opera throughout Europe and in the U.S. She is a founding member of a new music ensemble Fonema Consort, and she is a regular soloist with Voix de Stras/Choeur de Chambre de Strasbourg. In 2015 she created Petite Musique Collective, which produces concerts that seek to erase the gap between poetry, music, and visual arts while highlighting the immense number of artistic talents that call Chicago home.

Cheng’s major field is not music but mathematics. She also makes her home in Chicago where she is scientist in residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she teaches high level abstract mathematics to art students.

She is also honorary fellow of the University of Sheffield (England) and honorary visiting fellow of City University, London. She has taught mathematics at Cambridge, Chicago, and Nice. She holds a Ph.D. in pure mathematics from the University of Cambridge.

Cheng wrote a book in 2015 titled How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics (Basic Books pub.), which was published in Britain as Cakes, Custard and Category Theory: Easy Recipes for Complex Maths (Profile pub.).

She has said, “I am keen to bring mathematics to a wider audience and help reduce math's phobia.” Her second book, Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics, will be published in 2017.

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