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Tuesday, 13 October 2020, 1:00PM - 2:00PM
Online Lecture

The Mathematics of Musical Composition

Professor Sarah Hart

Pattern and structure are essential to music, from the permutations in a Bach fugue, to the structure of a round. 

This lecture will explore the mathematics of musical symmetries, such as the “translational symmetry” of the transposition of keys, and the “rotational symmetry” of the duet “Der Spiegel”, attributed to Mozart. 

It will go on to explore the last century’s experimentation with the use of mathematical forms to produce intriguing effects, including in the works of Arnold Schoenberg and Per Nørgård.


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Sarah Hart is the first woman Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, and was appointed in 2020. She is Professor of Mathematics and Head of Mathematics and Statistics at Birkbeck, University of London.

She studied at Oxford and Manchester, gaining her PhD in 2000. Postdoctoral research and teaching followed, including a prestigious Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Fellowship, before she was appointed to a lectureship at Birkbeck in 2004. She has been Professor of Mathematics there since 2013. She is also Vice President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics.

Sarah is an active researcher, publishing mainly in the area of pure mathematics known as group theory, which has many applications both inside and outside of mathematics, for example in coding theory and cryptography. She is passionate about communicating mathematics and is a sought-after public speaker. She is particularly interested in the links between mathematics, culture and creativity: many of her public lectures and talks in schools are on this topic, especially on mathematics and art.

In 2020-21, Professor Hart will be lecturing on Mathematics in Music and Writing, part of a three-year exploration of Mathematics, Culture and Creativity.

All lectures by the Gresham Professors of Geometry can be found here.


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