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NC State to offer public lecture on the mathematics of music

Noam Elkies

Renowned mathematician, composer and chess master, Noam Elkies, will visit NC State later this month to give a free, public lecture, titled Canonical Forms: A Mathematician’s View of Musical Canons. The lecture is Friday, January 25, at 4 p.m. in Room 2203 SAS Hall.

To write a musical canon – be it “Three Blind Mice” or the climax of a Bach fugue – one constructs a melody that can act as its own harmony. Thinking about this task leads us to look at musical structure from points of view usually associated with science and mathematics, not the arts. Dr. Elkies’ lecture will be illustrated with diagrams as well as musical examples from various eras and genres (including at least one improvised on the spot), and will require no technical background in either music or mathematics.

Noam Elkies is a professor of mathematics at Harvard University. He won the Putnam Mathematical Competition for college students at age 16 and graduated from Columbia University as valedictorian at age 18. He won the World Chess Solving Championship at age 20 and was named a full professor at Harvard at age 26, becoming the youngest full professor in the history of the storied university.

This lecture is being hosted by the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Physics. For more information, please contact Dean Lee at