Math Teacher Explains
Another Fab Four Song
Science is finally catching up with The Beatles music. Who knew? It’s true that it took a number of calculations and a lot of brain work (besides a considerable delay), but a mathematician finally figured that “Strawberry Fields Forever” is actually a compression of two versions of the song.
We know, we know. No disrespect to Professor Jason Brown, of Dalhousie’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, but George Martin had explained that in detail about 20 years ago. Dr. Brown, though, formulated the calculations necessary to describe the process in scientific terms.
It’s too bad John Lennon is no longer with us to hear him elaborate on it.
The good professor discovered how the Beatles’ producer spliced and combined the two takes that Lennon chose for the final version of the song. Since they were in two different keys and tempos, he delayed the tempo of take number one and sped up the other.
Brown was able to derive a mathematical formula to represent the musical problem facing Martin, which confirmed the editing. Using the equation, he figured that the only way to make the song rhythmically accurate would have been to slow it down to a tempo of about 43 beats per minute.
His formula is elegant in its simplicity but far from easy. You may even say that it may have taken Brown almost as long as, years before, he’d spent mastering the guitar to play the music of his favorite band. But don’t quote us on that.
It was not his first foray into scientifically explaining the music of the Beatles. Three years ago, he determined the components of the unusual opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night,” which had been challenging musicians from all over since the song was released in 1964.
Everyone knew that George Harrison used a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar, Lennon played his own six-stringer and Paul McCartney, his Hofner violin-shaped bass. But only Brown figured out that Martin also added a piano F note to the mix, which enhanced the effect and enthralled a generation of musicians.
By the way (as if you don’t already know), both songs are primarily Lennon’s, but again, it’s really too bad that Harrison is no longer with us to hear this one too.