Proof: Musician = Mathematician

Furman grad finds connections (and futures) in two subjects

Robert Wells '09, is well on his way to a career in music. After graduating from Furman with a double major in music and math, Wells earned his Masters of Music in Piano Performance at Eastman and will receive a PhD in Music Theory from Eastman this year. At Furman, Wells realized the link between math and music and saw the benefits of studying them in tandem.

Robert Wells Music Furman University"A musician must develop an analytical way of thinking in order to fully realize a composer's intentions and bring real depth to interpreting a piece," says Wells. "On the other hand, mathematical study requires a great amount of creativity. Proving new theorems can require an incredible amount of ingenuity in its own right."

Interestingly enough, Wells says his higher level training in math actually led him to pursue an advanced music theory degree. When researching music programs, Wells discovered the field of "mathematical music theory." He began reading about some of the research done in these fields and was intrigued.

"I was really struck not only by how important this area has become in the theory world, but also just how diverse of an area it is," he says.

According to Wells, experts are currently applying several mathematical disciplines to music theory, ranging from group theory to combinatorics to number theory and topology.

"But of course, I wouldn't even know what any of these mathematical disciplines were without my training as a math major, much less be able to read the current research," he says.

And Wells was happy he did discover this field because, since then, he has received one of a dozen Sproul Fellowships, the largest fellowship offered to incoming Ph.D. students by the University of Rochester (of which Eastman is a part). He plans on completing much research—including dissertation—in one of the many areas of mathematical music theory.

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