Composer-in-residence, 2020-2021

In autumn 2020, we engaged the composer Liam Taylor-West as a resident artist at the University of Bristol's School of Mathematics. During this programme, Liam has worked closely with many mathematicians to understand active research in a number of diverse and complex areas, including algebraic number theory, the geometry of quasicrystals, fractals and mathematical forest fire models. His latest audio-visual compositions are inspired by these topics and often employ underlying rules that are directly drawn from mathematical concepts.

The project is ongoing, with a final exhibition planned for the summer.

Resources for schools

As part of our commitment to public engagement, Liam has created a short series of videos to explain a part of his project to school pupils. The videos are most suitable for children aged 9 - 13. Each is structured to form the basis for an hour-length "maths and music" lesson that we find works well as part of a cross-curriculum primary school activity in Years 4 to 6. We have written suggested lesson plans to accompany each video (see below).

In these videos, Liam breaks down some of the mathematics of aperiodic order, using musical examples. Students will investigate both mathematical and musical concepts, including:

  • Sequences
  • Randomness vs predictability
  • Repetition in music (and life!)
  • Rhythms and polyrhythms
  • Composing
  • Fractions and irrational numbers
  • Fractals

Teachers: if you use these videos and lesson packs, or are planning to, we'd love to hear from you! Please get in touch.

Video 1

Lesson plan in pdf format.

Video 2

Lesson plan in pdf format.

Video 3

Lesson plan in pdf format.

Supplementary video resources. These are exercises from video 3 that you can try to play along to. Each has a different number of overlapping rhythmic lines. Try adjusting the playback speed on Youtube to make it easier / harder.

Bonus music!
This is a piece of music whose composition is determined by the fractal path described in video 3. This shape, which it traces out while the music plays is called the Fibonacci word fractal.