Unheard Music: talks and discussion
Listening to Maths

Euclid’s Elements has been translated more often than any book except the Bible. Within it, the author discusses harmonic relations with reference to the golden ratio, ideas that have influenced everything from Renaissance architecture to music and the making of Stradivari instruments. Dividing a string, as happens whenever a cello is played, creates an expression of harmonic ratios which are found in the design of the instrument and throughout nature, just as they are in music. When you listen to a cello, you are listening to mathematics.

In this event, these Euclidean ratios will be illustrated in various ways. Robert Brewer Young, a master luthier and professor of philosophy, will explain their origins and sketch them with chalk and compass on a blackboard. The same proportions will be simultaneously demonstrated in musical accompaniment on a cello made with OCLW Co-Director, writer and cellist Dr. Kate Kennedy.

Robert Brewer Young is a luthier who makes violins in the spirit of Stradivari, Guarneri and other Italian masters. He is also a Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School and Director of the J&A Beare Scientific Research and Conservation department for rare violins.

Imaginary music made possible

Easley Blackwood’s Twelve Microtonal Etudes give a glimpse of an alternative history of Western music, incorporating brand new notes that cannot be found on the piano. Using animated visualisations of the music, Matthew Sheeran will explain how he was able to record these “impossible” pieces with conventional orchestral instruments. No knowledge of music theory required!

Matthew Sheeran (born 1989) is a British composer and arranger. He studied music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the University of Sussex and King’s College London. In 2010 he won the Presteigne Festival’s Alan Horne Prize for composition and the Shipley Arts Festival’s Chairman of the Jury award. His music has been performed at the Aldeburgh Festival, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey.
Date: 23 April 2024, 17:30 (Tuesday, 1st week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
Venue Details: Accessibility information available here: https://www.wolfson.ox.ac.uk/accessibility-wolfson-college#panel1
Speakers: Robert Brewer Young, Matthew Sheeran
Organising department: Oxford Centre for Life-Writing
Organiser: Oxford Centre for Life Writing
Organiser contact email address: events.oclw@wolfson.ox.ac.uk
Host: Oxford Centre for Life Writing
Booking required?: Recommended
Booking url: https://oclw.web.ox.ac.uk/event/unheard-music-talks-and-discussion
Cost: Free
Audience: Public
Editors: Alice Little, Eleri Watson