The Music of the Spheres

As we all know Tapioca Draingurgle shot to fame last year when her song Explaining Eigenvalues shot to the top of YouTube’s most coveted and hotly contested Mathematical Concepts Set to Song by Attractively Underdressed Young Ladies category. It easily beat the next song on the most watched list by over 1 000 000 downloads, although many critics and a fair few mathematicians claim that Twinkleknee Spoonbender’s Factorials Made Easy is a better song. However, some of those with an interest in more advanced mathematics claim that the dance moves in Draingurgle’s video are more mathematically, and geometrically, innovative than those in the runner up video.

Certainly, the dance moves of Draingurgle’s video soon proved to be a hit on the dancefloors of most of the world, with Spoonbender’s song only more popular in the former Soviet Union  and various other countries of the former Eastern bloc. Some have put that localised popularity down to activity by Russian social media bots when the Russian government released a video of President Putin dancing to the Spoonbender track at a meeting with then PM May in Walsall, last October.

However, such is the world’s fascination with mathematical concepts set to music that many have predicted that it will not be long before mathematics becomes very fashionable, especially to the young.

Of course, as with most things in popular culture, maths music – as it was once known – has been in and out of fashion for as long as there has been such a concept as popular music. Back when popular music began, along with the invention of the phonograph and the amplifying microphone, it was the age of the crooners who made maths music popular. Of course, everyone remembers the famous pop stars of the time such as Al Bowly and Bing Crosby. However, the biggest hits of the time were the Multiplication Table Crooners, men and women who would croon the times tables over a backing from a jazz orchestra. Tilly Dangle’s Seven Times Table was one of the biggest hits of the era. Tilly sold out venues all around the world, singing her multiplication table songs, at least until the incident in 1932 when she attempted an A Capella version of the 23 times table, which ended in  a disaster when she failed to reach the high note on 23 x 16.

Since then there have been many other genres of maths based music, such as during the rock ‘n’ roll era when geometrical progressions were all the rage. During the psychedelic era the Pinkish Wonderthings released their famous Hilbert Hotel concept album with it never ending final track, I’ll take Room Number One, Please. This album, for many, surpassed even Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd in its psychedelic depth.

There was the punk era, when maths musicians claimed to return to the basics with songs about straightforward addition and subtraction. But even though the energy of those groups was admirable, many music fans missed the complexity of calculus provided by the supergroups of the seventies who could make songs last for half an hour or more about a single derivation.

In this new era of mathematical music with songs like Explaining Eigenvalues leading the way, music fans can only hope that Draingurgle and Spoonbender both have many more hits in the future.



Published by David Hadley

A Bloke. Occasionally points at ducks.

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