The Essence of Mathematics, in One Beatles Song

Ben Orlin in Math With Bad Drawings:

ScreenHunter_1914 May. 04 17.02Okay, here’s a life regret: No one has ever stopped me on the street, grabbed me by the collar, and demanded that I explain to them the essence of mathematics.

Me: So, you want to get math?

Assailant: Obviously! Why else would one human being violently accost another, if not for the acquisition of knowledge?

Me: Easy, then! All you need to do is listen to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Assailant: [arches eyebrow] You can’t be serious. The Beatles album?

Me: [easing out of their grip, brushing my collar] Naturally! The whole album is trippy and spectacular, of course. But I’m talking about the final moments of the final track, a song that Rolling Stone has hailed as the Beatles’ greatest: “A Day in the Life.”

Assailant: [listening on an iPhone] This better be good, or I’m going to pound you into a fine math teacher carpaccio.

Me: Patience, assailant, patience! Wait until three minutes and fifty seconds in. That’s when a cacophonous noise begins. It’s the sound of a 40-piece orchestra playing absolute gibberish.

Assailant: [brow furrowing] This music sounds like I’m losing my mind.

Me: Exactly! Producer George Martin had some very odd and vague instructions to the musicians. Start quiet; end loud. Start low in pitch; end high. “You’ve got to make your own way up there,” he said, “as slidey as possible so that the clarinets slurp, trombones gliss, violins slide without fingering any notes. Most of all, don’t listen to the fellow next to you because I don’t want you to be doing the same thing.”

More here. And come back after reading the article to watch the video for the Beatles song: