Marcus Miller on The Intersection of Music and Math

Marcus Miller on The Intersection of Music and Math

Joining me this week was Marcus Miller. Marcus is a saxophonist based in Harlem with a degree in mathematics from Harvard. He is also the host of a podcast called The Poolside Polymath.

If you’re wondering how music and mathematics combine, that’s exactly what Marcus has been exploring for most of his career. He has a quote on his website from James Joseph Sylvester

May not music be described as the mathematics of the sense, mathematics is music of the reason.

This just alludes to the fascinating vastness of exploring these two fields, both the similarities between math and music, as well as the differences and what those can teach us about life in general.

I was absolutely rocked by this conversation as you will probably be able to tell. Marcus has this incredible ability to draw on specific examples of mathematicians, spiritual leaders, philosophers, and just an incredible memory and knowledge of books that he has read to start to tease apart and explore the intersection of these two fields.

Please Enjoy!

Full Episode

Guest Links

Show Notes

  • Marcus talks about his endless and constant pursuit of finding the connection between math and music. (00:02:02-00:03:11)
  • What is his father’s influence on him in terms of his studies and music? (00:03:41-00:04:48)
  • Was there anything in his father’s analytical mindset of accounting that played into his approach to learning music? (00:05:03-00:08:41)
  • Marcus talks about his mentors and the roles they play for him. (00:09:20-00:13:29)
  • Marcus talks about his experience trying to start a record label with a friend and meeting another mentor. (00:13:30-00:17:19)
  • When did he start getting interested in Mathematics? (00:18:03-00:22:35)
  • Marcus talks about almost giving up music when he was in Harvard. (00:22:36-00:24:14)
  • Marcus talks about his job at Bridgewater. (00:24:16-00:27:10)
  • What made him leave his job? (00:27:10-00:30:27)
  • Marcus talks about teaching music at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and one on one tutoring as a sideline. (00:30:28-00:32:54)
  • Why are people afraid of Math? (00:33:38-00:37:22)
  • Do Mathematical equations and theorems resolve in the same way music resolves? (00:37:23-00:43:12)
  • Marcus and Andrew talk more about resolving mathematical equations and how pattern recognition and repetition play a role in it. (00:43:13-00:48:04)
  • Marcus shares about ‘The Concept of Play‘. (00:48:06-00:52:30)
  • Marcus and Andrew talk about the role of play and games in math and music. (00:52:31-00:56:12)
  • Marcus talks about how imagination and a naive and childlike curiosity are necessary to do challenging and complicated things. (00:56:14-00:59:22)
  • What role does beauty play for Marcus in terms of internal representation? (00:59:22-01:02:03)
  • Marcus talks about a system of education called classical education. (01:02:05-01:07:05)
  • What has Marcus learned from music and math that have helped him in alignment? (01:07:32-01:10:58)
  • Marcus talks about the idea of sacred geometry (01:10:99-01:14:03)
  • Marcus talks about The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences by Eugene Wigner. (01:14:04-01:16:33)
  • Does Marcus believe that if you are good at math, that helps with music? (01:16:55-01:22:07)

Selected Links from the Episode

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