Listening to maths
6:30pm, 1 Nov 2023
The luthier Robert Brewer Young explains the geometry of the violin, with musical accompaniment on two violins made by Stradivari himself.
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 the Stradivari violin. Dividing a string, as happens whenever a violin is played, creates an expression of harmonic ratios which are found in the design of the violin and throughout nature, just as they are in music. When you listen to a violin, you are listening to mathematics.
In this event, these Euclidean ratios will be illustrated in various ways. Robert Brewer Young, a master luthier who has studied the philosophy of logic and mathematics, will explain their origins and sketch them with chalk and compass on a blackboard. The same proportions will be simultaneously demonstrated in musical accompaniment by the violinist Elena Urioste, and London Institute Fellow Prof Yang-Hui He, who is an amateur violinist. Both will perform on Stradivari violins.
This event takes place on Wednesday 1 November at the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences, which is on the second floor of the Royal Institution. Please come for a glass of wine at 18:30, before being seated in Tyndall’s Parlour for the start of the event at 19:00. There will be drinks afterwards in the Old Post Room.
Speaker and Performers
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.
Elena Urioste is a musician, yogi, writer and entrepreneur. As a violinist, she has soloed for the New York Philharmonic, and the Boston and Cleveland Symphony Orchestras, among many others. A former BBC New Generation Artist, she has featured on the cover of BBC Music magazine.
Prof. Yang-Hui He is a Fellow at the London Institute. He works on geometry, number and string theory, and how AI can help uncover new patterns and raise new conjectures in pure mathematics. He has played violin for the Princeton University Orchestra and Oxford’s Savile Consort.